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.
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.
Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance to Earth), for this orbit on Monday November 26th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.74 Earth diameters 227,809 miles (366,623 km) from the Earth.
The 18-day old Waning gibbous rises after sunset and is visible all night between the Gemini Twin stars and the bright star Capella in Canis Minor. Off to the east is the inner planet Venus shining brightly with an apparent magnitude of -4.6, and within about 4o from the blue-white star Spica (0.9 apparent magnitude) in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. About 10o east from Venus is the closest Dwarf Planet, Ceres. With an apparent magnitude of 8.0 Ceres is not visible to the unaided eye.
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?”
During the hour or so before the Sun rises, the inner planet Venus will shine brightly over the eastern horizon. Over the next several days Venus will be in a close conjunction with the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Venus will pass within 1-2o from Spica. Venus is unmistakable with an apparent magnitude of -4.7, and for comparison Spica has an apparent magnitude of 0.98, which is bright but not bright like Venus!
The animated graphic shows the sky at 6 am CST from November 12th to November 17th. The first graphic shows the connection between the stars of the Big Dipper, the curved handle, aka the “arc”, and the stars Arcturus and Spica.
Dwarf Planet Ceres is shown but with an apparent 8th> would require optical assistance to be visible. Reddish Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman has an apparent magnitude of -0.07 and is certainly visible.
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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Tuesday November 6th the 28-day old very thin waning crescent Moon will be near the inner planet Venus, the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden, and Dwarf Planet Ceres as they all rise an hour or so before sunrise. The waning crescent Moon has an apparent magnitude of -8.55 compared with Venus apparent magnitude of -4.32, Spica with an apparent magnitude of 0.96, and Dwarf Planet Ceres with an apparent magnitude of 8.18.
Thursday September 20th the waxing gibbous Moon will be crossing 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.
Our Moon also reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Thursday September 20th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.74 Earth diameters (361,354 km or 224,535 miles) from the Earth.
On the evening of the apogee and node crossing the 11-day old waxing gibbous Moon will be over the southeast horizon at sunset in conjunction with the ‘Red Planet’, passing within 10-11o east from the planet Mars. Joining the Moon and Mars are the planets Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus – all to the west from the Moon and Mars.
Tuesday evening September 11th the 2.5-day old waxing crescent Moon will be 7-8o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden, and about 8-9o from the inner planet Venus. Joining Venus and the Moon are several planets arranged from west to east – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. Northwest from Venus is the dwarf planet Ceres, but at 8th apparent magnitude Ceres requires an optical aid like powerful binoculars or a telescope.to be seen.
The pair should prove to be an interesting sight with binoculars or a wide-field telescope eyepiece. Venus shines with an apparent magnitude of -4.4, while Spica has an apparent magnitude of about 1.0.