From Spica to Venus

   Thursday morning December 10th the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be passing by the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden, coming within about 5o from Spica.

   Over the next two days the Moon will continue moving eastward and waning to an increasingly thin crescent shape. On the morning of the 12th the even thinner crescent Moon will be about 3o from the brightly shining inner planet Venus.
   New Moon is on the 14th just in case you were wondering.

   
   
   
   
   
   

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Inner Planets on the Move

   This past month, November, the inner planets Mercury and Venus were very visible in the early morning skies before sunrise. Both of the planets were at or near their respective western elongation. Venus was there during August and Mercury reached its western elongation on November 10th.
   What I wanted to capture was the daily change in the position of Venus as it passed the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Venus moves about 1.6o each day so its eastward motion should be obvious after a day or so. It was – it is!. Mercury, if you are wondering, moves about 4o each day.
   Both inner planets were somewhere around their maximum separation from the Sun – as we see it the inner planet is to the right side of the Sun, or toward the west.
   The series of pictures were taken from two locations near my house. One is from an empty lot near U.S. Highway 50 looking east. The other pictures are from somewhere along the street I live on! The first picture was taken at Legacy Park and includes the ISS orbiting over my location.


   
   
   

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Venus – Spica Conjunction


   Over the next few days the inner planet Venus will be moving eastward as it passes the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This animated graphic is set to 1-day intervals and shows the morning sky from November 16th to the 20th.


   On Monday morning November 16th Venus will be the closest to Spica for a conjunction that has the two separated by about 3-4o. A few degrees, 13o, further east (lower) is the other inner planet Mercury.

   
   
   

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Mercury at Western Elongation – See it in the Morning Skies

   On Tuesday November 10th Mercury, the innermost planet, will reach its orbital position known as greatest western elongation at 19.1o. At that moment Mercury, the Sun, and the Earth, would be arranged in something close to approximating a right angle as this graphic shows. Even though it sounds confusing at western elongation for either Mercury or Venus the inner planet will be to the right of the Sun as we view them, meaning that at western elongation an inner planet rises in the east before the Sun rises. And at eastern elongation with the inner planet on the left side of the Sun the inner planet follows the Sun across the sky setting after the Sun sets.

   From our perspective the orbits of Mercury and Venus appear to move from one side of the Sun to the other – out to the left (east) from the Sun to eastern elongation, then reverse and move westward (inferior conjunction) between the Earth and the Sun to western elongation. From there the inner planet moves eastward going behind the Sun (superior conjunction) and eventually reappearing on the eastern side of the Sun for an eastern elongation. Repeat over and over – do not stop!

   There is a lot to see and a few things you cannot see on the morning of Mercury’s western elongation. Going by relative apparent magnitudes Mercury (-0.52), Venus (-3.99), Spica (0.96), are all easily visible as bright to very bright star-like objects. The 24-day old waning crescent Moon shines at a much brighter apparent magnitude of (-11.52).

   
   
   
   
   

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A Missouri Morning with the ISS

   This morning opened up with a colorful sunrise as the background for the ISS as it orbited toward the southeast. High overhead toward the south was the near last quarter Moon brightening the sky in that direction. However this was not a morning for taking pictures of the Moon.
   Right on time the ISS appeared over the northwest horizon and steadily moved past Polaris, the North Star, then past the Big Dipper’s Dipper heading toward the star Arcturus in Bootes the Herdsman. On its way toward the southeastern horizon the ISS went past Venus, Mercury and the star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.
   While waiting and taking random pictures in different directions I managed to catch a Taurid Meteor!

   
   
   

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Waning Gibbous Moon Passes Spica

   Over the next 2 days, March 21st and 22nd, the waning gibbous Moon will be passing by the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden, coming within 6-7o on the 21st and 10-11o on the 22nd.
   From the mythology about Virgo she is often depicted with a bundle of grasses, like wheat, clutched in her left hand. The star Spica represents that bundle.


   
   
   

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Moon Conjunction with Venus and Ceres

   Tuesday morning January 1st the thin 25-day old waning crescent Moon (apparent magnitude -10.96) will be within 3-4o from the inner planet Venus (apparent magnitude -4.47) and 1-2o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 8.0). All three will fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

   
   
   

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A Trio of Pairs

   Sunday morning December 30th the 23-day old waning crescent Moon (apparent magnitude -11.76) will be 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo the Harvest Maiden. Both the Moon and Spica (apparent magnitude 0.96) will fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

   Rising about an hour after the Moon and Spica is another pair of celestial objects, the hard to miss Venus (apparent magnitude -4.48) is within 2-3o from the Dwarf Planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 8.0). Both of these will easily fit within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars.

   
   
   
   
   
   Wait about an hour, depending on your eastern horizon, and the planet Jupiter (apparent magnitude -1.8) will be about 5-6o from the reddish star Antares (apparent magnitude 1.0) in the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion. And they will be high enough above the horizon to be more visible. Both Jupiter and Antares will fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   
   
   

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Venus and Spica in Close Conjunction


   Friday morning November 16th the inner planet Venus will be within 1-2o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   
   
   

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Moon in Conjunction with Venus, Spica, and Dwarf Planet Ceres

   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.

   
   
   

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