June Moon at Ascending Node

   Thursday June 27th 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 June 27th the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be with the constellation Leo the Lion, and the Moon will be located less than 1o from the heart of the Lion, the star Regulus. This should make for a great view with binoculars or through the eyepiece of a telescope.
   Just above the western horizon, possibly lost in the Sun’s glare, are two more planets – Mars and Mercury about 1o apart.

   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.

Mercury at Superior Conjunction

mercury at superior conjunction
   Wednesday June 21st the innermost planet Mercury reaches superior conjunction – on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. For those that are curious, Mercury at superior conjunction is approximately 1.324 AU (123,073,489 miles; 198,067,580 km) from the Earth – the combined distance of the Earth to Sun distance plus the radius of Mercury’s orbit.
   Mercury is not visible while in conjunction with the Sun but within the next week or so Mercury will reappear on the east side of the Sun and start becoming visible over the western horizon at sunset.

   
   
   

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.

2017 June Solstice

21june-ecliptic   Northern hemisphere spring comes to an end and its summer begins on Wednesday day June 21st at 4:24 UT (11:24 pm CDT Tuesday June 20th) when the Sun ‘reaches’ the celestial coordinates of 23.5o north declination and 6 hours right ascension. With respect to the Earth’s surface the Sun is described as over the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5o, north latitude of the Earth’s equator. At this same time the Sun is just entering the boundaries of the astrological constellation Cancer the Crab. Interestingly about 11 hours later, June 21st at 15 UT (10 am CDT) the Sun will actually be entering the region of the Gemini Twins as it crosses the boundary between Gemini and Taurus.
Just had to include this!!
   According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun, at this date, would be entering the astrological sign of Cancer the Crab.

   We know that it is the Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun that causes the sun’s apparent eastward motion among the stars in the background. This is how the Sun ‘reaches’ a celestial coordinate, how it ‘crosses’ the boundaries between constellations, or how it is ‘in’ a constellation.

   With respect to the southern hemisphere this is the end of their summer and start of their fall season. So thinking globally my preference has been to use the name of the month to designate the season change. Hence the use of the term June Solstice rather than summer solstice.

   
   
   

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.

Venus – Crescent Moon Conjunction


   Tuesday morning June 20th the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 6o from the inner planet Venus. At -4.6 apparent magnitude Venus contrasts well with the Moon’s -11 apparent magnitude.

   
   
   

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.

Saturn at 2017 Opposition

saturn-opposition-ani
   Thursday June 15th the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the faster moving Earth passing Saturn and at opposition is 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.

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

   
   
   
   
   

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.

Jupiter Has 2 More

   Outer planet Jupiter has probably more moons than have been counted so far. The greater majority of these satellites of Jupiter orbit in retrograde relative to the rotation direction of the planet. Satellites of any planet that orbit their ‘parent’ planet in retrograde are called irregular satellites to distinguish them from satellites that formed with the planet, and consequently would orbit in the same direction as the planet’s rotation.
   Two recently discovered satellites, bringing the known or at least suspected number to 69, are described via their respective URL with a very official looking but somewhat confusing at first glance bulletin. The links are to the MPEC (Minor Planet Electronic Circular) at the Minor Planet Center.
   Both of these satellites were discovered or co-discovered by Astronomers Scott Sheppard, David Tholen, and Chadwick Trujillo. Given the small size and challenges in imaging these satellites it is amazing that they were discovered. Read more about the discoveries at Sky & Telescope‘s web site.

    MPEC 2017-L47 : S/2017 J 1 click here
    MPEC 2017-L08 : S/2016 J 1 click here

       Take a tour around Jupiter and its many satellites. The sizes of the Galilean satellites, Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto have been made larger than they would actually be given the size Jupiter used in the video.

       
       
       

    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.

Neptune at Western Quadrature

orbital-positions   On Sunday June 4th the position of the planet Neptune with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. At that orbital position Neptune, and actually any outer planet, is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Neptune leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Neptune rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.

click on graphic to see it larger   Neptune currently is within the boundaries of the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. At around 7th magnitude Neptune is too dim to see with the naked-eye but easily seen with a telescope or binoculars. In 7×50 binoculars Neptune may be visible near the 4th magnitude Lambda Aquarii, and just below the point of a small triangle arrangement of 6th magnitude stars.

   This is a short video clip 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.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.