Neptune at Opposition

neptune-opposition   Tuesday September 1st the outer planet Neptune reaches a position in its orbit around the Sun when it is on the oppisite side of the Earth from the Sun. This coincidentally is known as opposition, and it is an orbital position which only the planets further from the Sun than the Earth may reach.
   At opposition the object rises and sets in a fashion similar to our Moon when it is at full phase, in that the object at opposition rises at sunset and sets at sunrise.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus at Inferior Conjunction

inner-planets-positions   Saturday August 15th the innermost planet Venus reaches its orbital position known as inferior conjunction. This is one of four points along an inner planet orbit, and at inferior conjunction Venus is between the Earth and the Sun – like our new Moon phase.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Saturn at Opposition

   Saturday May 23rd the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the Earth centered between the outer planet and the Sun. Picture the arrangement with the Moon at full phase; Sun – Earth – Moon, and that is similar to the arrangement for Saturn at opposition; Sun – Earth – Saturn.

   When an outer planet, like Saturn, reaches opposition that planet rises around local time for sunset and is visible all night.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Uranus at Opposition

view-from-uranus   Tuesday October 7th the outer planet Uranus reaches a position in its orbit around the Sun when it is on the oppisite side of the Earth from the Sun. This coincidentally is known as opposition, and it is an orbital position which only the planets further from the Sun than the Earth may reach.
   At opposition the object rises and sets in a fashion similar to our Moon when it is at full phase, in that the object at opposition rises at sunset and sets at sunrise.

   
   
   
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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mars at East Quadrature

orbital-positions   Saturday 19 July at 6 UT (1 CDT) the position of the planet Mars, with respect to the Earth and the Sun, places this planet at what is called eastern quadrature. At that orbital position Mars, and actually any outer planet, is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth as this graphic shows, and the banner graphic at the top of the page shows. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions of Earth, Sun, and Mars. At this position Mars follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Mars rises after the Sun and then sets after the Sun.

   This is a short video clip about Mars from a much longer video that I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” at the Gottleib Planetarium in Kansas City Missouri during May 2011.

   
   
   
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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mercury at Eastern Elongation

orbital-positions   Mercury, the innermost planet, has reached its orbital position known as greatest eastern elongation. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows.
   From our perspective Mercury, and Venus for that matter, appear to move out to the left (east) from the Sun for a period, then reverse and move westward between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!
   Mercury is currently visible as an ‘evening star’ over the western horizon at sunset.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Jupiter at Eastern Quadrature

1apr-jupiter-east-quad   On Tuesday 1 April the position of the planet Jupiter with respect to the Earth and the Sun places the solar system’s largest planet at an orbital position called eastern quadrature. Jupiter is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth as this graphic shows. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Jupiter follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Jupiter rises after the Sun and consequently sets after the Sun.
   Where is Jupiter now? Click here to see a graphic showing Jupiter and the star field of northern hemisphere winter and spring stars. I purposely chose a later time, 11:30 pm CDT, because at about that time Saturn and Mars will be visible above the eastern horizon.

   This is a short 6-7 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit” that was performed at the Gottleib Planetarium in Kansas City Missouri in May 2011. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Jupiter, Saturn and some of their moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft.

   
   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.