Virgo Grabs for a Croissant – or is it Crescent?

   Saturday August 22nd the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 4-5o from the bluish-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Spica, from mythology, is described as the bundle of grasses (wheat, oats ?) in her hand – which is appropriate for something representing agriculture.
   Rising in the east is a pair of outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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Moon-Venus-M35 Conjunction

   Saturday morning August 15th the thin 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2-3o from the inner planet Venus, and about 3-4o from the open star cluster M-35. All three are located near the feet of the Gemini Twins.
   The contrast in apparent magnitudes is very striking with the Moon shining at -10.7 compared to the -4.3 apparent magnitude of Venus. M-35, with an apparent magnitude of 5.3 will be difficult if not impossible to see with the bright Moon and Venus nearby. Under other conditions M-35 is visible to the naked-eye under dark skies. All three rise 2-3 hours before sunrise local time and will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars. To see just Venus and M-35 wait until tomorrow after the Moon has moved further east, is a thinner crescent and less bright. However Venus will have also moved a bit more than 1o east as it orbits along.
   If you can see the crescent Moon after sunrise it may even be possible to see Venus during the daytime using the Moon as a guide for where to look.

   
   

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August Moon at Ascending Node

   Friday August 14th the thin 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north. 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 morning of the node crossing the thin waning crescent Moon is positioned about midway between the reddish Aldebaran to the west, and the inner planet Venus to the east.
   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)
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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Moon – Spica Conjunctions


   Over the next two evenings, July 25th and 26th, the Moon, as it waxes from crescent to first quarter, will be passing the bluish-white star Virgo. Virgo is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   The Moon often, as in monthly, passes by Spica. Sometimes coming very close and sometimes a bit further away as these two graphics show. Spica lies along the ecliptic and since the Moon’s orbital path follows the ecliptic, crisscrossing the ecliptic regularly, a conjunction between Spica and our Moon is not that unusual.

   Off to the east two of the outer planets, Jupiter and Saturn are rising. Both are easy to see even if you are standing across from a night Baseball game!

   
   
   

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Virgo Spikes the Moon

   Our Moon, after traversing the boundaries of the constellation Leo the Lion, will then do a similiar crossing of the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Roughly midway across Virgo is the bright blue-white star Spica. From mythologies the star Spica represents a harvested bundle of grasses, maybe wheat or oats.
   On the evening of June 28th the Moon will be about 7o to the west from Spica, and the next evening, June 29th the Moon will about 9-10o to the east from Spica.

   
   
   

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June Apogee Moon

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest to Earth), for this orbit, on Wednesday June 3rd. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.56 Earth diameters, 226,406 miles (364,366 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the perigee Moon the 13.3-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises a couple of hours before the Sun sets placing the Moon over the southeastern horizon around mid-evening.

   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*
   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

   
   
   
   
   
   

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.


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Moon – Spica Conjunction

   Tuesday evening the 10.5-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both will fit within the field of view of binoculars.


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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Moon – Spica Conjunction

   Tuesday evening May 5th the 12-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be about 7o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   In illustrations of Virgo the star Spica represents a bundle of grasses (wheat, oats) held in her left hand.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Virgo Grabs for the Moon!


   Thursday morning January 13th the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon will be 6-7o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   
   
   

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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.

   
   
   

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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