Along the Ecliptic

   Every once in a while the planets arrange themselves along the horizon and when that happens visualizing the ecliptic is somewhat obvious. For the next week or so all of the naked-eye visible planets except Mars, plus Neptune and Dwarf Planet Ceres, will be above the horizon at sunset local time. If you wait about an hour the Moon and the planet Uranus will rise above the eastern horizon as Mercury and Venus have set in the west.
   The ecliptic is actually the Earth’s orbit and it is used as a reference ‘line’, properly known as the plane of the ecliptic, for all of the Sun orbiting objects. Since few if any Sun orbiting objects have orbits that are on the same plane as the Earth but rather these objects are tilted or inclined either above or below the plane of the ecliptic. This is know as inclination. (Table Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_inclination)

   
   
   

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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Waning Crescent Moon Passes Uranus

   Thursday and Friday mornings before the Sun rises look toward the eastern horizon for the 24-day old waning crescent Moon to be within about 8-9o to the west from the outer ringed planet Uranus on Thursday the 27th, and about 7-8o from Uranus but now to the east on Friday the 28th.


   Uranus has an apparent magnitude 5.84 which technically makes it naked-eye visible (in dark skies) however nearby is the thin waning crescent Moon outshining Uranus with a -11.00 apparent magnitude. Worth mentioning but not naked eye visible is the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune, with a 7.90 apparent magnitude.

   
   
   

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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June Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Sunday June 23rd. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 31.71 Earth diameters 251,374 miles (404,548 km) from the Earth.

   The 20-day old waning gibbous Moon rises around midnight local time and sets later that same day.

   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?”

   
   
   

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 – Uranus Conjunction

   Friday May 31st the 26.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be within about 4o from the outer ringed planet Uranus. Both rise around 1 hour before sunrise local time. The waning crescent Moon and Uranus will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.
   However with two distinctly different apparent magnitudes (Moon -10.0 and Uranus 6.80) seeing Uranus will be a challenge compared to the much brighter Moon. Even more dimmer is the dwarf planet Ceres (apparent magnitude 18.67) located about 11o west from the crescent 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 Hot Seat? Uranus at Solar Conjunction


   On April 23rd, the outer planet Uranus will be on the opposite side of the Sun at solar conjunction.

   
   
   

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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March Moon at Ascending Node

   Saturday March 16th the 10-day old waxing gibbous 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.

   On the day of the node crossing the 10-day old waxing gibbous Moon rises during the mid-afternoon and sets about 2 hours before sunrise on Sunday.

   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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.

Moon Conjunction with Uranus

   Saturday evening March 9th the thin 3-day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 6-7o from the outer planet Uranus. Both will be above the western horizon at sunset local time, setting about 2 hours after the Sun sets.
   Is it possible to see Uranus? Currently the apparent magnitude of Uranus is within the range that is visible to the unaided eye in very dark skies, or at least with binoculars. However even at a thin crescent shape the nearby Moon may brighten the sky too much to allow for seeing Uranus. There is a noticeable difference in the apparent brightness of the crescent Moon and Uranus. The Moon has a -10.0 apparent magnitude compared to Uranus with a 5.87 apparent magnitude.
   Despite the moonlight Uranus is visible as a faint star through binoculars at its current apparent magnitude and using the Moon as a guide it may be possible to spot Uranus. You may just have to wait until the Moon rises well after sunset leaving the sky relatively darker.

   
   
   

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.


Also Follow me and other great resources at Feedspot.