Saturday morning February 2nd the thin 27.5-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be 1-2o from the ringed planet Saturn. Both will be rising about 1 hour before the Sun rises, and the two will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.
Wednesday January 2nd the planet Saturn will have reached the astronomical coordinates that officially place it at solar conjunction. From our perspective the planet is behind the Sun, or on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth.
In reality it is not as much as Saturn moving behind the Sun as it is the Sun passing in front of Saturn – or so it seems. As a distant outer planet Saturn moves more slowly around the Sun than the Earth does. One year on Saturn is equal to 29.7 years (10,832 days) on Earth. So in one day Saturn would travel how much of the 360o orbit around the Sun? That would amount to approximately 0.033o each day.
The Sun, in its apparent motion along the ecliptic moves at the rate the Earth is moving which is 0.99o each day. So with the Sun’s apparent motion (0.99o/day) it quickly, relative to Saturn, passes Saturn while both are moving eastward. So with that in mind you could start watching for Saturn to reappear in the morning skies later next month.
Saturday evening December 8th the 1.6-day young waxing crescent Moon will be in conjunction with the outer ringed planet Saturn. The two will be within about 3o from each other. Joining the Moon and Saturn is the Dwarf Planet Pluto, and further to the east are the planets Uranus, Neptune, and Mars.
Within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars, in addition to the Moon and Saturn, are several Messier Objects, M-22, M-25, and M-26. These may be a challenge to see given that they are low over the western horizon and by the time the sky is darker they will have set or are just about to set.
Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Wednesday November 14th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.70 Earth diameters 404,341 km (251,246 miles) 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 7.5-day old waxing crescent Moon, at sunset local time (5:05 pm CST), will be over the southern horizon and joined by several planets. Just over the western horizon are the naked-eye visible planets from west to east: Jupiter, the inner planet Mercury, Saturn, and finally Mars. Neptune is shown however at 8th requires optical assistance or a camera to become visible.
Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”
Sunday evening November 11th the 3.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within 2-3o east (left) of the outer ringed planet Saturn. The two should look good through a wide-field eyepiece at ow magnification, and through binoculars.
Click here to go to a previous posting showing the daily position of our Moon over a 1.5 week period.
(The animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals.)
In addition to the Moon moving along in its orbit the Earth is also moving eastward along its orbit around the Sun. As the Earth revolves the sky shifts toward the west gradually moving the stars closer to the western horizon. Even the planets gradually shift toward the western horizon and out of sight.