March Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Monday March 4th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.86 Earth diameters 252,520 miles (406,391 km) from the Earth.

   Does our Moon actually go around the Earth? 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*

   On the day of the apogee the 27.5-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be over the southeastern horizon 30-60 minutes before sunrise local time.

*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?”

   
   
   

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March Moon at Descending Node

   Saturday March 2nd the Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.
   On the day of the node crossing the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be over the southeast horizon rising about 1-2 hours before the Sun rises. Toward the west from the Moon will be two outer planets, Saturn and Jupiter, and a bit further west the dwarf planet Ceres. About 4-5o east from the Moon is the inner planet Venus. Both will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.
   
   
   
   
   

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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Waning Crescent Moon in a Close Conjunction with Saturn

    Friday March 1st the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be less than 0.5o from the ringed planet Saturn, as the two rise before the Sun rises. In other parts of the world the Moon actually passes in front of Saturn in an occultation. Regardless of the viewing location the thin waning crescent Moon and the planet Saturn should make for a great view with binoculars.

   
   
   

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 Dwarf Planet Ceres, then the Next Day with Jupiter

   In the hour or so before the Sun rises on the morning of February 26th look for the 21-day old last quarter Moon to be about 3-4o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres. Realize, however, that seeing Ceres is not really possible given that Ceres has an apparent magnitude of between 7th to 8th, while the last Quarter Moon has an apparent magnitude between -11th to -12th.
   In any case, on the morning of the 27th look for the 22-day old waning crescent Moon to be about 1-2o from the outer planet Jupiter.


   
   
   

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Mercury at Eastern Elongation

orbital-positions    On Tuesday February 26th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach 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 the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – from superior conjunction, behind the Sun, out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward through (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!
   I’ve added Mercury’s orbit to the ‘horizon view’ graphic below. Mercury is never very far ‘out’ from the Sun at elongation because of how close to the Sun is Mercury.
   Currently Mercury is visible over the western horizon at sunset local time. Joining Mercury to the east (up to the left) is the planet Mars. A few degrees west from Mars, (to the right), is the star Hamal. This is the brightest star in the small constellation of Aries the Ram.
   Additionally, if your skies are dark enough it should be possible to see the “Square of Pegasus”, a part of the constellation Pegasus the Winged Horse. And look for the star Mirach, part of the constellation Andromeda the Princess. Just a few degrees to its right is a fuzzy looking smear of light – M-31, the Andromeda Galaxy.
   
   
   

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Mars – Jupiter at Heliocentric Opposition

31oct-view-from-mars   Saturday February 23rd the planets Mars and Jupiter are aligned in an arrangement known as heliocentric opposition. The two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun and are approximately 180o apart in heliocentric longitude as measured around the celestial equator. Mars has a heliocentric longitude of approximately 71.0o, while Jupiter is at 251.0o.
   
   
   

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Twin Conjunctions

click on graphic to see it larger   Monday February 18th the inner planet Venus will be about 1o from the outer planet Saturn as both rise a couple of hours before the Sun rises. The two will make for an interesting view with binoculars.

   Also, on Monday February 18th the 14-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 7-8o to the west from the star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion. The following day, February 19th, the full Moon will be about the same distance from Regulus but now on the east side. Both rise in the late afternoon about 2 hours before the Sun sets.

   
   
   

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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