September Moon at Ascending Node

   Thursday September 6th the waning 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 the day of the node crossing the 26-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be about 13o east (left) from the star Procyon in the constellation Canis Minor.

   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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March Perigee Moon

   The Moon reaches perigee, (minimum distance from Earth), this month on Monday March 26th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 28.90 Earth diameters (369,106 km or 229352 miles) from the Earth.
Does our Moon actually go around the Earth as this graphic shows? 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 perigee the 9.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises at mid-afternoon and is located between Procyon in Canis Minor and Regulus in Leo the Lion.

*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 go to bobs-spaces.

Pollux Kicks it Back!


   Over the next couple of nights the 15 to 16 day old waning gibbous Moon will move past Pollux and Castor, the twin stars of Gemini, and Procyon the alpha star in Canis Minor, the Little Dog. With a little imagination or the animated graphic it’s not hard to picture Pollux kicking the Moon. Ok a lot of imagination, or the animated graphic!
Animated graphic shows the sky for December 15th and 16th a couple of hours after 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.

ISS This Morning

   This morning the International Space Station, ISS, made a short but sweet appearance when it popped into view just west from the ‘Little Dog’ star Procyon. It’s 3-minute path carried past Procyon and then down toward the southeastern horizon passing the star Alphard in the constellation Hydra the Snake. The last quarter Moon was near the star Regulus in Leo the Lion, and as an added there was an Iridium Satellite rising up from the southern horizon.
   This is a composite of 39 pictures stacked together. Camera was set to ISO 1600; F5.6; 3.2 seconds; 18mm.

   
   
   

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.

Moon Near a Beehive


   Very early Sunday morning October 23rd the 22-day old last quarter Moon will be a few degrees from the open star cluster M-44, or commonly known as the ‘Beehive Cluster‘. This should make for an interesting sight with binoculars despite the reflected light from the Moon.

   If you are not a late night observer but like me an early morning observer then the Moon will still be close to M-44 before sunrise. However at that time look south-southeast and high above the horizon. To the right is Procyon in Canis Minor and above the Moon are the ‘Twins’ Pollux and Castor.

   
   
   

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.

Get the Point?

point   Thursday evening March 26th the first quarter Moon lies in the region of the sky off Orion’s right shoulder, the reddish star Betelgeuse. This puts the Moon between the small constellation of Canis Minor with it’s alpha star Procyon, and the brightest night time star, Sirius (no joking!!), in Canis Major.

   But more to the point the Moon looks as if it were about to be stabbed by the Monoceros’s single horn. That’s right, from Greek mythology Monoceros is actually a unicorn. Monoceros translated from Greek means unicorn. As a constellation this one ranks among the dimmest as only a few of the stars of Monoceros are brighter than 4th magnitude. Alpha Monocerotis, for example, is the brightest star in this constellation and only has a magnitude of 3.73. With most of Monoceros’s stars being no brighter this constellation is for the most part invisible for those living within light polluted areas.

   
   
   
   
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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.

Dawn at Sunrise

Asteroid Vesta

Asteroid Vesta

   This NASA picture of the day is from the NASA/JPL Dawn mission now more or less at the halfway point. The picture is a beautiful mosaic of asteroid Vesta showing an incredible amount of detail in surface features. Vesta is the third largest object in the main asteroid belt, following Ceres (now a Dwarf Planet) and Pallas. Vesta was the first of two stops that the Dawn spacecraft has been scheduled to make. Having left Vesta during September 2012 after a one-year visit to Vesta the Dawn spacecraft is now on its way to the largest object in the main belt – Dwarf Planet Ceres. Arrival at Ceres will be during spring of 2015.

   Click on the picture of Vesta to go to the press release page, or click here to go to the Dawn mission web site for more information, multimedia, and resources for educators, parents (the same!), and kids.

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   This graphic shows a view looking eastward at 11 UT, (6 am CDT). on 1 October. There are a number of objects of interest all of which are staggered in a stair-step pattern toward the horizon. (Not shown because it is higher above the horizon is Jupiter near the Gemini Twins.)
   The very thin 26-day old waning crescent Moon is close to the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. Regulus is the bottom of a group of stars arranged in a backward question mark. Can you find those stars?.
Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Further down the ‘stairs’ are Vesta and Ceres. Vesta is at about 7th magnitude, while Ceres is at 8th magnitude, this means that both are too dim to be seen with the naked-eye. However just looking toward that area and knowing that we have a spacecraft that is traveling from one to the other is kind of cool. However #2 is that with a telescope or time exposure pictures a person would be able to see and follow the asteroids as they slowly move along their respective orbital paths. These two are located near the three stars forming the triangle-shaped backside of the Lion, a shape recognizable by anyone familiar with the constellation.
   As an added bonus Comet ISON is right along side of Mars. Although currently too dim in magnitude for naked-eye or binocular/small telescope viewing a person could start their personal observations of the comet as it moves toward perihelion in November, and then possibly put on a good display during December. Viewing this same part of the sky at about the same time you can follow the comet as its path takes it past Vesta and Ceres during the first week of November.

   I’ll periodically post about the comet including describing my digital camera photography attempts, however there are many easily found places on the web with information about the comet.

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