Thin Waxing Moon in Conjunction with Saturn

   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.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Thin Moon Conjunction with Mercury

   Wednesday morning December 5th the very thin 28-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 4-5o from the innermost planet Mercury. Venus shines very brightly above or west from the Moon. About an hour after the Moon and Mercury have risen the outer planet Jupiter will rise above the eastern horizon.

   
   
   

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Mars Reaches Eastern Quadrature

orbital-positions   Monday December 3rd the position of the planet Mars, with respect to the Earth and the Sun, places this planet at what is called eastern quadrature. At that orbital position Mars, and actually any outer planet, is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth as this graphic shows, and the banner graphic at the top of the page shows. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions of Earth, Sun, and Mars.

   At this position Mars follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Mars rises after the Sun and then sets after the Sun. Mars, with an apparent magnitude of 0.0, is about 2o from 8th magnitude Neptune.

   
   
   

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Sun Enters Ophiuchus

ophiuchus   Friday, November 30th the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic, moves out of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion and into the constellation of Ophiuchus the Healer. This is the true or actual position of the Sun as opposed to the pseudoscience of astrology which usually has the astrological Sun one constellation ahead or east from the Astronomical Sun’s position.

ophiuchus-scorpion   Ophiuchus is the 13th constellation of the zodiac (Astronomical) but does not appear in the astrological zodiac nor in the astrology column found in many newspapers. A constellation of either zodiac is defined the same way, using the ecliptic path. If the ecliptic passes through a constellation boundary then that constellation is a zodiac constellation. In the graphics I use the ecliptic path clearly crosses across the boundary for the constellation Ophiuchus the Healer.

   Ophiuchus is described in a mythology story as a healer. In one story following a mortal fight between Orion and Scorpius the Scorpion Ophiuchus kills the scorpion by stepping on it; extracts the venom from the scorpion; and then uses it to bring Orion back to life.
cadeuces   In Ophiuchus’s hands he is holding a long snake, the 2-part constellation of Serpens – Serpens Cauda (tail of the snake) and Serpens Caput (head of the snake). There are many stories about Ophiuchus and the snake including one where this is the origin of the symbol for medicine, the caduceus. However the caduceus is used primarily in the United States as the symbol for medicine, and is depicted as 2 snakes wrapped around a staff with wings. rodIf there is a connection with a medical symbol then it should be with the Rod of Asclepius, a staff with one snake.
   
   
   

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Moon in Conjunction with Regulus

   Thursday morning November 29th the 22-day old waning gibbous Moon will be 1-2o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus. By sunrise the Moon and Regulus will be over the southern horizon. At about that time Venus, shining very brightly, is still close to Spica as the two rise a couple of hours before the Sun rises.
   This is also the time of the year when the winter circle of constellations (Taurus, Auriga, Gemini Twins, Canis Minor, Canis Major, and Orion) start showing up over the horizon during the late evening hours.

   
   
   

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November Moon at Ascending Node

   Tuesday November 27th the waning gibbous 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 20-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 5o from the open star cluster known as the ‘Beehive Cluster’, M-44. Given that the Moon has an apparent magnitude of -12.0 compared with the 4th magnitude of the Beehive Cluster it may be difficult to see the star cluster.

   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?”

   
   
   

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Mercury at Inferior Conjunction

orbital-positions   Tuesday November 27th the innermost planet Mercury reaches inferior conjunction. At inferior conjunction Mercury will move between the Earth and the Sun – much like the position of the Moon at new phase. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.

   At this inferior conjunction Mercury will not be directly in line with the Earth and the Sun – on the ecliptic. Mercury has an orbital inclination of 7o with respect to the ecliptic. So like our Moon, Mercury during each complete orbit, will cross the plane of the ecliptic moving north (ascending node) and also moving south (descending node). For this inferior conjunction Mercury will be about 5o north from the ecliptic, approaching its maximum angle of 7o.

   
   
   

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