March Moon at Apogee

 Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Saturday March 18th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.72 Earth diameters (404,640 km or 251,432 miles) from the Earth.
   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)

Read this very informative article about the Earth-Moon system and their orbital motions, written by Joe Hanson. “Do We Orbit the Moon?”

   On the morning of the apogee Moon the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon rises a couple of hours before the Sun and is visible over the southern horizon.

   
   
   

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.

Moon Near Jupiter and Spica


   Tuesday evening March 14th look for the waning gibbous Moon to be about 5-6o from the giant planet Jupiter and the blue-white star Spica. Both of which are within the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The trio will make for an interesting view with 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.

Jupiter Closest to Spica – This Time Around

1feb-bino
   Thursday February 2nd the giant gas planet Jupiter will be its closest to the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. The two will be separated by about 3o.

These two graphics show the sky as viewed from Quito Ecuador at 0o latitude, and my home latitude of approximately 40o North.

   
   
   

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.

Moon Near Jupiter and Spica


   Thursday January 19th morning several hours before sunrise local time the last quarter Moon will be within a few degrees from Jupiter and the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
This graphic simulates a view using 10×50 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.

2017 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

   The annual Quadrantid Meteor Shower reaches its peak Tuesday morning January 3rd officially at 15 UT (10 am CST). The Quadrantids are one of the best meteor showers of the year but does not get much attention possibly because it’s winter in the northern hemisphere, and this area of the sky is not easily seen from south of the equator.
   The ZHR (average hourly rate) for this meteor shower ranges from 60 to several hundred. Best time for viewing is before sunrise as your part of the Earth is rotating toward the east sort of putting you headfirst into the meteor shower. To find the radiant for this meteor shower look for the stars of the Big Dipper and then look below the end stars in the handle.

Boötes the Herdsman

Boötes the Herdsman

   The radiant is the area from where the meteors seem to radiate outward from. Meteor showers owe their name to the constellation region the radiant is located within, and as this graphic shows the radiant is within the boundary of the constellation Boötes the Herdsman. So why the name Quadrantids?
   On some of the older star charts there is a now ‘extinct’ constellation called Quadrans Muralis, the Mural. This was a constellation located between Boötes and Draco the Dragon that was created in 1795 by French Astronomer Jérôme Lalande. It is a picture, or mural, of a Quadrant that had been used to map the stars. The Quadrantids Meteor Shower was named for the no longer used constellation.

   
   
   

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.

Follow the Arc to Spica, or Jupiter

   There is an ‘old’ Astronomical saying, a sort of memory aid, for finding at least two constellations by way of their alpha, or brightest star in their respective constellation. In Bootes the Herdsman there is the orange-reddish star Arcturus, and in Virgo the Harvest Maiden the bluish-white star Spica. The saying – “follow the arc to Arcturus, then speed to Spica” is how you connect these two stars with the curve, or arc, in the handle of the Big Dipper. This is typically done during the Northern Hemisphere spring and summer season when Bootes and Virgo are in the evening skies. However during the late autumn and winter months in the Northern Hemisphere this memory aid works best in the early morning skies before the Sun rises.
   So despite the graphic showing the morning sky for December 8th you could go out any morning for the next few months and find the 7 stars making up the Big Dipper. Then look for the curved handle and follow the arc or curved handle toward Arcturus and then continue on to Spica, or for the time being, the planet 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.

Moon In With Conjunction Jupiter


   Friday Morning November 25th the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 2o from the planet Jupiter, and a few degrees from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   This conjunction between the Moon and Jupiter is the 3rd month that a conjunction between the two, and this one will be the last one for a while, at least involving a waning crescent Moon.

   Last month I was able to catch the Moon and Jupiter as they rose over my school.

   
   
   

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.