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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Mercury at Superior Conjunction

   Monday August 17th the innermost planet Mercury reaches superior conjunction. At superior conjunction Mercury will be on the opposite side of the Sun. The graphic to the right shows the planet positions relative to the Earth and Sun for both inner planets and outer planets.
   While at this superior conjunction Mercury will not be directly in line with the Earth and the Sun – on the ecliptic. Mercury has an orbital inclination of 7o with respect to the ecliptic. So like our Moon, Mercury during each complete orbit, will cross the plane of the ecliptic moving north (ascending node) and also moving south (descending node). For this superior conjunction Mercury is 6.96o North and is about as far north of the ecliptic as it can get.

   Speaking about inner planets here is the other inner planet, Venus, and the 27-day old waning crescent Moon this morning.

   
   
   

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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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An Evening Comet

   Despite clouds along the northern horizon the comet was still easy to see with the naked eye. Well not really easy, easy, but it was certainly visible as an elongated fuzzy object. I was observing near a family using a telescope and they were the first to spot the comet. So, by using the pointer stars of the Big Dipper I looked down from the bowl toward the horizon and there was the comet. In one of the pictures below you can see the pointer stars near the top of the picture.
All pictures have been processed to adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, temperature, and all have been resized.
   While waiting for the sky to darken enough the ISS orbited overhead moving across the stars of the ‘Summer Triangle’ passing closely by the stars Vega in Lyra the Harp and Deneb in Cygnus the Swan (aka the ‘Northern Cross’).
   Adding to the viewing were the planets Jupiter and Saturn rising in the southeast along with the stars of Sagittarius and Scorpius, and the summer Milky Way.
   The morning after there were a few clouds blocking a view of the comet, however the waning crescent Moon and Venus were shining brightly and hard to miss.


   
   
   

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Venus, the Bull, and a Comet (yes!)

   The next several days offer some exciting opportunities for viewing: a few of the visible planets; the waning phases of our Moon and a few conjunctions with stars and planets; Venus crossing the stars of the Hyades open star cluster; and Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE).
   Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is one of the many comets discovered by the NASA NEOWISE mission.
   NEOWISE is a space-based telescope used to find and track ‘Near Earth Objects’, comets and asteroids, that may pose a threat to our planet.
   Click on this link to go to the SkyLive web site for viewing information about Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

   
   
   

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Crescent Moon – Venus Close Conjunction

   Friday morning June 19th about an hour before sunrise look toward the eastern horizon for the 27.5-day old waning crescent Moon and the inner planet Venus. The two will be separated by about 1-2o and both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars making for a striking view.
   You will be looking at a Moon that is about 24-hours from new Moon phase, and shines with an apparent magnitude of -8.90 compared with Venus shining with a -4.29 apparent magnitude.
   Off to the west over the eastern-southern horizon are the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune, Mars, and Dwarf Planet Ceres. Further to the west are the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

   
   
   

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