January Full Moon at Ascending Node, Almost at Perigee, and a Total Lunar Eclipse

   Sunday January 20th the full Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. 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.

Total Lunar Eclipse   On the day of the node crossing the full Moon also be passing through the Earth’s shadow giving us a Total Lunar Eclipse that will be visible across the continental U.S.A.

   Within less than 15 hours the Moon will also be at perigee, is closest to the Earth for this orbit. This full Moon will be the second closest perigee Moon this year, with the perigee Moon of February as the closest and the ‘Super Moon’ for the year.

   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)

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

   
   
   

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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A Lunar ‘4-fer’ Plus Planets: Perigee; Ascending Node; Blue Moon; and a Total Lunar Eclipse!!

   Our Moon reaches full phase for the second time this month on Wednesday January 31st at 13:27 UT (7:27 am CST). According to the popular definition for a ‘Blue Moon’ the second full Moon in a month is known as the ‘Blue Moon’. This happens about every 2.5 years with this year being a little more different in that there will be a second Blue Moon month in March.

   Our Moon reaches perigee, (closest distance from Earth), for this orbit on Wednesday January 30st at 9:48 UT (3:38 am CST). At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 28.14 Earth diameters (358,994 km or 221,204 miles) from the Earth.

      On Wednesday January 31st the full Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving north relative to the ecliptic. 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.
      
   What do you get when you have the full Moon at a node crossing? An eclipse – in this case a total lunar eclipse. Timing for this eclipse favors viewing from the western half of the continental United States. Here is a link to download a lunar eclipse page information page (PDF) from the NASA eclipse web site
   Mid-eclipse has the darkened Moon a few degrees away from the open star cluster, M-44, commonly known as the Beehive Cluster. Both the Moon and tM-44 will fit within the field of view of binoculars.
   Here is a summary of the eclipse event starting times from the NASA Eclipse web site. My local time, CST, is UT-6 hours. An important time will be local sunrise-moonset time. For me local sunrise and Moon set time is 7:26 am CST meaning that totality will be in progress as the Moon sets. Here is a link to the Sun and Moon Data calculator web page at the U.S.N. Observatory so you may determine your local sunrise/moon set time. Here is a link to the Hermit Eclipse web site for more information about the eclipse and an interactive map showing eclipse event particulars.
P1 = 10:51 UT 4:51 CST
U1 = 11:48 UT 11:48 CST
U2 = 12:51:47 UT 6:51 CST
U3 = 14:07:51 UT 8:07 CST
U4 = 15:11:11 UT 9:11 CST
P4 = 16:08:27 UT 10:08 CST

   As the eclipsed Moon is setting in the west turn toward the south and east to see Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn plus the bright stars Spica and Antares.

   
   
   
   
   
   

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.

Lunar Eclipse

   Skies were clear, temperature was 30o, and I was all by myself in the parking lot behind the Science/Technology building on the Longview College campus. Actually I wasn’t completely alone as there were deer roaming around in the field across the road but they were looking down for food while I was looking up.
   This eclipse was not timed well for my location at 94oW longitude as the time for totality was very close to the time for sunrise. So as the eclipse progressed the sky gradually brightened. The last view of the Moon I had was at 5:57 am CST.
   
   

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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

April Moon at Ascending Node

apr4-ascending-node
   On Saturday April 4th at 03:19 UT (Friday April 3rd at 9:19 pm CST) our 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 (dark green line) has with the ecliptic. The ecliptic is 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.


   The Moon rises Friday April 3rd at around the local time for sunrise and the Moon becomes full phase at 12:06 UT (6:06 am CST) on Saturday April 4th. With a combination of full Moon and a node crossing at about the same time the result is a lunar eclipse. For most of the continental United States the eclipse will be in progress Saturday morning while the Moon is over the south to western horizon. Unfortunately the timing for the eclipse stages is close to the time of moonset and sunrise. This means that the best viewing for the partial and total parts of the eclipse will be to the western side of the United States. Basically the further west that your longitude is will mean that the eclipse will take place higher above the horizon, resulting in seeing most if not all of the eclipse..
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Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Passing the Baton? No, Passing the Moon! (part 3)

   Over the next few evenings (March 31th to April 1st) if you watch the Moon at about the same time you will see the Moon wax, or increase in phase toward the full Moon phase on April 4th and a total lunar eclipse. Additionally think in terms of the constellations in the background and it may not be difficult to imagine the Moon as a ball being passed eastward from one constellation to the next. Sort of a from “hand to claw to paw”.
31mar-leo_moon   Hey! If you can imagine the stars looking like the mythological characters they represent how difficult is it to imagine those characters playing pass the ‘ball’?

March 27,28,29,30,31, April 1

March 27,28,29,30,31, April 1


   
   
   So, starting on March 27th with the Gemini Twins, Pollux passed the Moon to Cancer the Crab on the 29th, who in turn will claw it toward the paws of Leo the following day.
   Along the way the Moon will pass Jupiter and then Regulus (31st), the heart of the Lion.

   
   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Passing the Baton? No, Passing the Moon! (part 1)

   Over the next few evenings (March 27th to April 1st) if you watch the Moon at about the same time you will see the Moon wax, or increase in phase toward the full Moon phase on April 4th and a total lunar eclipse. Additionally think in terms of the constellations in the background and it may not be difficult to imagine the Moon as a ball being passed eastward from one constellation to the next.
   Hey! If you can imagine the stars looking like the mythological characters they represent how difficult is it to imagine those characters playing ‘pass the ball’?

   So, starting with the Gemini Twins Pollux passes the Moon to Cancer the Crab, who in turn claws it toward the paws of Leo. Along the way the Moon pass Jupiter and then Regulus, the heart of the Lion.

Stay tuned – It’s on the Crab soon!

[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.