September Moon at Descending Node

   Wednesday September 23rd the 7-day old first quarter Moon crosses 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 date of the descending node the first quarter Moon will be about 20o to the east from the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares, and about 15-16o west from Jupiter.
   Mercury and Spica are still a couple of degrees apart but low above the horizon as the Sun is setting.

   
   
   
   
   

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the Moon and the Scorpion

   Tuesday evening August 25th watch for the 7-day old first quarter Moon to be about 5o from the reddish star Antares. This star, sometimes known as ‘the rival of Mars’ because the color of the planet and Antares are strikingly similar. This is most notable during the years when Mars passes by Antares and the two are together in the sky.
    From mythology Antares is the ‘heart’ of Scorpius the Scorpion. In reality Antares is a red supergiant star that is the 15th brightest night time star. As the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius Antares is the alpha star or α Scorpii (alpha scorpii).
   Antares is so big in size that it dwarfs many other stars, yet there stars bigger than Antares!

   
   
   

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Scorpion Grabs for the Moon!

   Wednesday evening July 29th the 9-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be 3-4o from the reddish star Antares. This star is the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion and shines with a 1.0 apparent magnitude. Rising in the east are two of the giant outer ringed planets, Jupiter and Saturn. Over the southwest is Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

   
   
   
   
   
   

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Saturn at Opposition – 2020

   Monday July 20th the outer planet Saturn reaches its orbital position known as opposition. This is a position which has the faster moving Earth passing Saturn and at opposition is centered between the outer planet and the Sun. Picture the arrangement with the Moon at full phase; Sun – Earth – Moon, and that is similar to the arrangement for Saturn at opposition.
   When an outer planet, like Saturn, reaches opposition that planet rises around local time for sunset and is visible all night.
   Saturn shares the evening skies over the eastern horizon with Jupiter as both are rising around the local time for sunset. Both will be visible all night, setting around sunrise. The reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion is off to the west from the two giant ringed planets. The ‘Summer Milky Way’ arcs across the sky from the south overhead toward the northeast and if your skies are dark enough should make for awesome viewing. And off to the northwest is Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE).
    And rising over the eastern horizon are the three stars making up the ‘Summer Triangle’.

   
   
   
   
   

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An Evening Comet

   Despite clouds along the northern horizon the comet was still easy to see with the naked eye. Well not really easy, easy, but it was certainly visible as an elongated fuzzy object. I was observing near a family using a telescope and they were the first to spot the comet. So, by using the pointer stars of the Big Dipper I looked down from the bowl toward the horizon and there was the comet. In one of the pictures below you can see the pointer stars near the top of the picture.
All pictures have been processed to adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, temperature, and all have been resized.
   While waiting for the sky to darken enough the ISS orbited overhead moving across the stars of the ‘Summer Triangle’ passing closely by the stars Vega in Lyra the Harp and Deneb in Cygnus the Swan (aka the ‘Northern Cross’).
   Adding to the viewing were the planets Jupiter and Saturn rising in the southeast along with the stars of Sagittarius and Scorpius, and the summer Milky Way.
   The morning after there were a few clouds blocking a view of the comet, however the waning crescent Moon and Venus were shining brightly and hard to miss.


   
   
   

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Moon – Antares Conjunction

   Saturday morning May 9th the 16-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 6-7o from the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares.
   Joining the waning gibbous Moon will be the several of the visible planets arranged west to east starting with Jupiter, then Saturn, and Mars further east. The Dwarf Planet Ceres is also part of the planet spread but at 8th magnitude Ceres would require binoculars to see.

   
   
   
   

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Lunar Conjunctions

   Tuesday morning March 17th watch for the 23-day old waning crescent Moon to be approaching a group of 3 planets beginning a series of 3 conjunctions. Starting with a conjunction with Mars (10o separation) on the 17th, then a day or so later a conjunction with all three of the planets coming the closest, about 1-2o, to Jupiter and Mars on the 18o. Saturn is about 7o to the east from the Moon, Jupiter and Mars. A day after that the Moon will have passed by Saturn and will be about 7o to the east from Saturn.
   If you watch carefully you will see that Mars is also moving eastward, as are Jupiter and Saturn. However Mars and the Moon are moving faster than the two ringed planets with the Moon moving the most per day. The result is that over the next several days, to the end of this month, Mars will be gradually passing by the two planets as the Moon, relative to Mars, will zoom past.

   
   
   

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Moon-Antares Conjunction

   Sunday morning March 15th look toward the southeastern horizon for a nice line-up of some visible planets and the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon. The Moon is about 7o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.
   Over the next several days the Moon, as it wanes toward new Moon, will move eastward past the planets that are lined up near the ecliptic. The planet Mars is also on the move eastward, albeit not as fast as the Moon.

   
   
   

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Moon, Mars, and Antares

   Monday morning January 20th, as they all rise together, the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 5o from the planet ‘red planet’ Mars and the red star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

   
   
   

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Mars on the Move

   Friday morning January 17th, before sunrise, the last quarter Moon will be about 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. However the celestial highlight coming up is further east or lower and closer to the eastern horizon where there are two reddish-colored objects of about the same apparent brightness or magnitude. One object is the planet Mars and the other is the star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

click on animated graphic to see it larger

Mars passing Antares – January 17-23 – 6 am CST

   Watch over the next several mornings and you will be able to determine which one is Mars and which is Antares as one of them moves past the other – as this animated graphic is showing. Also, relative to Mars and Antares the Moon is waning in phase as it zips past the two.

   There is an interesting connection between the star Antares and the planet Mars, based on their similar reddish color. There are times like this year when the two are close and part of the mythology surrounding the two suggests that the star was given its name so as to not confuse it with the planet Mars. The name Antares comes from the Greek word translated to ‘Rival of Mars’.

   Whenever that was historically Mars was probably known as one of the ‘wandering stars’ from the Greek word ‘planetai’. So with its reddish color, like blood, this ‘wandering star’ came to represent Mars, the ‘G-d of War’. Antares, on the other hand is a red supergiant star with a diameter estimated to be such that if it were at the center of our solar system Antares would fill the solar system out to around the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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