Catch an Asteroid!

   Asteroid 4 Vesta, the 2nd largest and brightest asteroid reached opposition this month (June 19th) and for a brief time following opposition, through July, the asteroid will be close to Earth and more visible. This graphic shows the view at about 10 pm CDT on June 21st. Vesta will essentially stay in this general area but over time will slowly move westward as the distance between Vesta and Earth increases. Keep in mind that over the next week or so the Moon will move past this part of the sky as it waxes through full phase. As the Moon gets closer to Vesta it will become increasingly difficult to see the much dimmer Vesta. The Moon light should no longer be an issue after the Moon has moved toward the east enough.
   Vesta has an average diameter of 329 miles (530 km) and orbits the Sun in approximately 3.6 years in an elliptically shaped orbit that takes it to an aphelion distance of 2.57 AU (238,896,425 miles – 384,466,528 km) and a perihelion distance on 2.15 AU (199,854,986 miles – 321,635,422 km).

   During the next month or so Vesta will be bright enough to be seen with binoculars and certainly with a telescope. It’s current apparent magnitude is 5.3 meaning it could be seen with the naked eye – under dark enough skies. Even if you cannot see the asteroid there are certainly other deep sky objects in the area near Vesta including one of the four the ringed planets, Saturn.

   
   
   

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Planets and Stars in Motion

   Over the next several days (evenings) both inner planets, Mercury and Venus, are moving along their respective orbits approaching each planet’s eastern elongation. From the animated graphic you can see that the stars in the background, like the two ‘Twin Stars’ Pollux and Castor, are also moving but toward the western horizon. This is a regular motion of the stars caused by the Earth’s own orbit, revolution, around the Sun. As the Earth revolves the stars appear to move westward – a real motion not to be confused with the apparent motion of stars toward the west as the Earth rotates.

   On the evening of June 25th Mercury will pass within about 5-6o from the star Pollux.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Moon Conjunction with Spica


   On the evening of June 21st the the 8-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be within about 8o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. In two days the Moon will have moved further east and be close to the planet Jupiter.

   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Venus May Get Stung!

   Over the next few evenings, June 19th and 20th the inner planet Venus, as it orbits toward the east, will pass within about 0.5-1o from the open star cluster known as M-44, or the Beehive Cluster. Venus shines brightly with an apparent magnitude of -4.0 compared to the combined apparent magnitude of 3.7 for M-44. Further to the east is the first quarter Moon, but it should be far enough away so that its reflected light will not interfere too much with seeing the open star cluster.


   This should make for a great sight through binoculars or a wide-field view telescope eyepiece.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Moon Near Heart of the Lion

   Sunday evening the 4.3-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 4o from the star Regulus, the heart of Leo the Lion. Spread across the sky from west to east are three planets, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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June Moon at Ascending Node

   Saturday June 16th the waxing crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. This is known as the ascending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and the Moon’s orbit is inclined about 6o from the ecliptic. So there are two node intersections, the ascending and descending nodes.

   On Saturday evening June 16th the 3.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 8o east (left) from the planet Venus and about 3o from the open star cluster, M-44 also, known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as many graphics show? From our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However, in reality, the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*

*Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Moon Passes the Twins and Venus

   Friday evening June 15th the 3.75-day young waxing crescent Moon will be to the left from the ‘Twin’ stars of Pollux and Castor. A little further east or higher above the Moon is the ‘hard-to-miss’ planet Venus.

   Over the next 24 hours the Moon will have orbited eastward and by the same time Saturday evening June 16th the waxing crescent Moon will be ‘above’ Venus, or further east than Venus is.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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