Moon-Venus Conjunction + M44

   Monday morning September 14th look eastward in the pre-dawn skies for the 26-day old waning crescent Moon to be about 4-5o from the planet Venus and about the same distance from the open star cluster M-44, the Beehive Custer.

   The trio should make for an interesting view with binoculars.
   
   
   
   
   
   

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the Moon and the Scorpion

   Tuesday evening August 25th watch for the 7-day old first quarter Moon to be about 5o from the reddish star Antares. This star, sometimes known as ‘the rival of Mars’ because the color of the planet and Antares are strikingly similar. This is most notable during the years when Mars passes by Antares and the two are together in the sky.
    From mythology Antares is the ‘heart’ of Scorpius the Scorpion. In reality Antares is a red supergiant star that is the 15th brightest night time star. As the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius Antares is the alpha star or α Scorpii (alpha scorpii).
   Antares is so big in size that it dwarfs many other stars, yet there stars bigger than Antares!

   
   
   

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Moon – Venus Morning Conjunction

   This morning despite clouds and thunderstorms moving through the area there were enough breaks in the clouds that allowed for getting a few pictures of the waning crescent Moon and Venus.

   Following the conjunction with Venus this morning watch tomorrow, Sunday morning August 16th, for the 27-day old waning crescent Moon to have moved further east away from Venus. The Moon will be about 6-7o from the ‘Twin’ star Pollux and a few degrees further from the other ‘Twin’ star Castor.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Moon-Venus-M35 Conjunction

   Saturday morning August 15th the thin 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2-3o from the inner planet Venus, and about 3-4o from the open star cluster M-35. All three are located near the feet of the Gemini Twins.
   The contrast in apparent magnitudes is very striking with the Moon shining at -10.7 compared to the -4.3 apparent magnitude of Venus. M-35, with an apparent magnitude of 5.3 will be difficult if not impossible to see with the bright Moon and Venus nearby. Under other conditions M-35 is visible to the naked-eye under dark skies. All three rise 2-3 hours before sunrise local time and will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars. To see just Venus and M-35 wait until tomorrow after the Moon has moved further east, is a thinner crescent and less bright. However Venus will have also moved a bit more than 1o east as it orbits along.
   If you can see the crescent Moon after sunrise it may even be possible to see Venus during the daytime using the Moon as a guide for where to look.

   
   

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August Moon at Ascending Node

   Friday August 14th the thin 25-day old waning crescent 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 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 morning of the node crossing the thin waning crescent Moon is positioned about midway between the reddish Aldebaran to the west, and the inner planet Venus to the east.
   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)
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Moon – Aldebaran Conjunction

   Thursday morning August 13th the 24-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 2-3o from the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. Aldebaran is one of the stars making the eyes of the Bull and both of these stars are at the open ends of a v-shaped group of stars. an open star cluster knowns as the Hyades.
   The combination of the stars of the Hyades with the thin waning crescent Moon should make a striking sight through binoculars.

   
   
   

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Venus at Western Elongation

inner-planets-positions   Wednesday August 12th the inner planet Venus reaches the point in its orbit called greatest western elongation. As this graphic shows the inner planet Venus, or Mercury, is more or less at a right angle (90o) from the Sun and Earth at western elongation. From the surface of the Earth, your backyard, for example, Venus is to the right, or western side of the Sun and is rising before the Sun.

   On the day of the elongation Venus will be very visible over the southeastern horizon at or before sunrise local time. Venus is joined by a few other planets, Jupiter, Uranus, Mars, and Dwarf Planet Ceres. The waning crescent Moon is nearly straight overhead (at least from 40oN) and a few degrees from the open star cluster the Pleiades. In this graphic the orbital path of Venus has been added, and also an arrow to show the direction Venus will now be moving toward (eastward).

   At western elongation Venus, or for that matter Mercury the other inner planet, is as far out from the Sun as we see them and as a result Venus or Mercury will rise at the earliest time for this orbit. Locally Venus rises that morning at around 3:00 am CDT. On the day of the western elongation Venus will be 45.8o from the Sun. From western elongation forward Venus or Mercury will be moving eastward toward the Sun and each day rising closer and closer to the time of sunrise. As the planet moves eastward it is moving further away from the Earth toward superior conjunction on the opposite side of the Sun.


    As the distance between the Earth and Venus, or Mercury, increases combined with the decreasing angle between the planet, the Earth, and the Sun, Venus or Mercury decreases in apparent size and also waxes through gibbous phase shapes but we never see it at a full phase since that is at superior conjunction.

   
   
   

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Venus Pass by M-35

Tuesday morning August 11th the inner planet Venus will be about 3-4o from the open star cluster M-35. Located near the feet of the Gemini Twins M-35 contains thousands of stars within an area about the size of the full Moon. M-35 is located around 5,000 light years distant.

   M-35 has an apparent magnitude of approximately 5.0 so it is possible to see M-35 with the naked eye and is certainly easily seen with binoculars. For the ‘record’ Venus has an apparent magnitude of -4.31, which by comparison is ‘way brighter’!!

   
   
   

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August Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Sunday August 9th. At that time the last quarter Moon will be at a distance of 31.72 Earth diameters, 251,469 miles (404,700 km) from the Earth.

   On the date of the apogee the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 1o from the planet Mars and both very visible over the southern horizon in the hours before sunrise.

   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)

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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Moon – Mars Conjunction

   Early mornings before sunrise the waning gibbous Moon is working its way eastward toward new Moon phase. Along the way the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 1o from the ‘Red Planet’ Mars on Sunday morning August 9th . Both will fit within the field of view of binoculars and should fit within the field of view of a low-power widefield type telescope eyepiece.
   The contrast in apparent magnitude is quite a range, from the Moon’s -12.0 to the -1.22 apparent magnitude of Mars.

   
   
   

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