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.

September Apogee Moon

Click on graphic to see it full screen size.

Moonset over Canyon DeChelly

   Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and from our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle the Earth each month. The Moon also has a slightly elliptical-shaped orbit allowing for the Moon to have a furthest (apogee) and closest (perigee) distances from the Earth each month. This month the 22.6 days old last quarter Moon reaches apogee at 1 pm CDT today, 27 September, and will more or less be at a distance of 32 Earth diameters (404,308 km or 252,255 miles).
Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   So, speaking of the Moon, or actually writing about it, if you are out and about before or around sunrise Saturday morning the waning crescent Moon will be near the side of Pollux, one of the Gemini Twins, and within a few degrees from the planet Jupiter.

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

Along the Ecliptic

   Today the Sun, in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, crosses the boundary between Aries and Taurus as it moves into the area of sky defined as the constellation Taurus the Bull. This is the true or Astronomical position of the Sun as opposed to the position of the Sun according to the pseudoscience of astrology.
   Also this evening the waxing crescent Moon will be near the star Procyon in Canis Minor the Little Dog.

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

Winter Hexagon and Jupiter

11 p.m. CST

11 p.m. CST

   The first quarter Moon rises and sets this evening near the stars of two open star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades, and is also close to the planet Jupiter. This part of the sky also contains a large asterism known as the winter hexagon. This is a loosely drawn figure composed of six bright stars from six constellations (go figure!). Starting with Rigel in Orion move to Aldebaran in Taurus, to Capella in Auriga, through the twin stars of Pollux and Castor in Gemini (count as one), then on to Procyon in Canis Minor, and finally to the brightest night time star, Sirius (no kidding!) in Canis Major.
   Click here to see or download a full size graphic showing the winter hexagon.

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

Full Moon and January Qué tal

Full Moonrise and a Star Party

Full Moonrise and a Star Party

   This evening the full Moon, or near full Moon depending on your time zone, rises around the time of local sunset. As shown in this graphic the Moon is near the waistlines of the Gemini Twins and is following the ‘Winter Circle’, or ‘Winter Hexagon’ asterism from east to west.

   The January issue of Qué tal in the Current Skies is now online. This issue features an article about Stars, brightness, temperature, and distance. In the ‘theater’ are two videos – about galaxies and the telescope.
   
   
   
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.