Give Mom a Diamond

   About an hour after local sunset, on Mother’s Day May 12th, go outside and face south and look for the 8-day old waxing gibbous Moon to be near the star Regulus. Then look for the bluish-white colored star Spica.
   Spica, a star in Virgo the Harvest Maiden, marks the lower corner of an *asterism known as ‘the Diamond of Virgo’. To see the asterism look up to the left from Spica for the reddish star Arcturus in the kite-shaped constellation Bootes the Herdsman. Then look nearly straight up, the zenith, for the dimmest of the diamond stars, Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs. Then look down to the right for the star Denebola, the tail of Leo the Lion.
   Look toward the western horizon for a reddish star, actually the ‘Red Planet’ Mars.

*An asterism is a group of stars forming a recognizable pattern using stars within a constellation or by combining stars from more than one constellation. For example, the Big and Little Dipper are asterisms.

   
   
   

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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Moon Passes Spica

   Shortly after midnight local time on January 26th-27th the 20-21 day old waning gibbous Moon will pass within 10-11o from the blue-white star Spica. This star marks a bundle of wheat in the left hand of Virgo the Harvest Maiden.

   
   
   

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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Ceres is at Perihelion

   Friday April 28th Saturday April 28th the closest Dwarf Planet to the Earth, Ceres, reaches perihelion, it’s closest to the Sun this orbit. At perihelion Ceres will be within the boundaries of the constellation Cancer the Crab, and will be approximately 2.56 AU (382,970,549 km; 237,966,866 miles) from the Sun, and 2.33 AU (348,563,038 km; 216,587,031 miles) from the Earth, and ‘shining’ with an apparent magnitude of around 7.50.

    Further east from the location of Ceres is the nearly full Moon about 7-8o from the blue-white star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Harvest Maiden. And rising a little will be the planet Jupiter, and still later Saturn and Mars.


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.

Mercury – Antares Conjunction

   Tuesday morning December 26th the innermost planet, Mercury, will be in a somewhat close conjunction with the heart of the Scorpius the Scorpion, the reddish star Antares. The two will be separated by about 8o and will be a bit too far apart to fit within the field of view of binoculars. Mercury has an apparent magnitude of -0.03 as compared with Antares 1.03 apparent magnitude.

   Looking higher above the horizon toward the south the planets Jupiter and Mars are visible as well as the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. With a line-up of planets and Spica it is easy to visualize the ecliptic, the apparent path the Sun follows eastward throughout the year.
   
   
   

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.

Mars – Spica Conjunction


   Starting with Wednesday November 27th and continuing for the next several days the ‘Red Planet’ Mars will pass within about 3-4o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. This animated graphic is set for 5:30 am CST at 1-day intervals starting with November 27th and ending on December 3rd.
   Jupiter is several degrees further east from Mars but by this time of the morning Jupiter will have just risen.

   Those familiar with the starry sky probably have heard the mnemonic “Follow the Arc to Arcturus, then speed to Spica” as a way to use the stars forming the curved handle (the ‘Arc’) of the Big Dipper as a guide to the reddish star Arcturus and then Spica. Read a bit more about following the arc from a previous post.
   
   
   

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.

March Moon at Apogee

 Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), on Saturday March 18th. At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.72 Earth diameters (404,640 km or 251,432 miles) from the Earth.
   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?”

   On the morning of the apogee Moon the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon rises a couple of hours before the Sun and is visible over the southern horizon.

   
   
   

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.

Sun Not In Virgo

   
According to the pseudoscience of astrology the Sun enters the constellation of Virgo the Maiden on Monday August 22nd. When in fact the actual position of the Sun today is toward the west and still within the boundaries of the constellation of Leo the Lion.

   Read a little more about how astrology has the Sun incorrectly placed in a previous blog, and in another blog discussing the effects of precession.
   
   
   

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.