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).

   
   
   

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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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.

   
   
   

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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May Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Monday 18th. At that time the 26.5-day old waning crescent Moon will be at a distance of 31.88 Earth diameters 252,028 miles (405,600 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee the thin waning crescent Moon rises about 1-2 hours before sunrise local time. Looking carefully with binoculars you may be able to see nearby 4th magnitude star 20 Ceti, one of the many stars that are part of the constellation Cetus the Whale.

   

   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)

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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Mars – Jupiter at Heliocentric Conjunction

   Saturday May 16th the outer planets Mars and Jupiter will reach a point in their respective orbit that has them at nearly the same heliocentric coordinates. This a system of tracking the planets as they make their 360o orbit around the Sun. Each Sun orbiting object’s orbital position is measured using degrees, minutes, and seconds of heliocentric longitude. Each object orbits the Sun at a daily rate determined by dividing 360o by the number of days an object takes to complete one orbit around the Sun.
   As the above graphic shows the two planets are arranged in a straight line out from the Sun. The Earth is not part of the line-up. This is a heliocentric view of their orbital positions with the Sun at the Center. A heliocntric longitude based view is not the same as a view from the surface of the Earth where there is a distinctly different view of the two planets.


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 Mars Conjunction x2

   Thursday morning May 14th the last quarter Moon will be about 8-9o to the west from the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. The following morning, Friday May 15th the waning crescent Moon will be about 6-7o from Mars but this time on the east side.



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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Saturn at Western Quadrature – 2020

saturn-west-quadrature   Tuesday April 21st, the position of the planet Saturn with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called western quadrature. Saturn is at a 90 degree angle from us as this graphic shows. Think third quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions. At this position Saturn leads the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Saturn rises before the Sun and also sets before the Sun.

Saturn currently is within the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer as this graphic shows. From the northern hemisphere, looking toward the southern horizon, you can find Saturn over the southeastern horizon about midway between Mars to the east, left, and Jupiter to the west, right.

Learn a little (or a lot) about Saturn by visiting the Cassini at Saturn mission web site.
Click here to go to the Cassini Mission web site.

   This is a short 5 minute video I made as part of a live musical performance called “Orbit”. This is a piece from the much longer tour of the solar system performance and video and shows Saturn and some of its moons as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft that month.

   
   
   


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.

An ‘Old’ April Moon at Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Monday April 20th. At that time the new Moon will be at a distance of 31.86 Earth diameters 252,563 miles (406,641 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee Moon the 27.2-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be rising about 1 hour before the Sun rises and if spotted could become a personal record for seeing an ‘old’ Moon.

   While out looking for the Moon there are several planets arranged across the southern and southeastern horizon. They are arranged west to east (or east to west) along the ecliptic, the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun, as the two graphics below are showing.

   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” in NSTA’s Science Scope Magazine.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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Morning Conjunctions

   This morning the 21-day old last quarter Moon was a few degrees from the outer planet Jupiter. As the Moon continues its eastward orbit, waning through the crescent phases, it will pass by Mars and Saturn, then 2 days later the waning crescent Moon will be close to the Dwarf Planet Ceres.



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 – Mercury Conjunction

   Saturday morning March 21st the thin 27-day old waning crescent Moon will be about 7o from the innermost planet Mercury as the two rise about an hour before the Sun rises. Should make for a great view in the field of view of binoculars.
   Still adding to the morning planet viewing are the outer planets Saturn, and the close conjunctions between Mars and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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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Mars-Jupiter Close Conjunction

   Friday morning March 20th the 26-day old waning crescent Moon will be near the Dwarf Planet Ceres. However the close conjunction (1-2o) between Mars and Jupiter should be an especially good view through the eyepiece of binoculars or the eyepiece of a telescope.

   
   
   

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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