Saturn Corrects Its Reversal

   On Tuesday September 29th in a move that comes about annually, Saturn will once again reverse its direction from moving toward the west to moving toward the east.
   Since around May 11th Saturn has appeared to be moving westward (toward the right) rather then toward the east. This happens as the faster moving Earth catches up with and then passes by Saturn. This apparent westward motion of Saturn is known as retrograde motion and for Saturn it’s retrograde motion comes to an end during mid-September when Saturn resumes its normal orbital motion toward the east, or to the left as we view Saturn from the Earth.
   Since retrograde is a reference to motion and means backward or reverse motion, then the opposite of retrograde would be prograde motion. So it would be correct to describe Saturn as having resumed prograde motion. However you would probably get a blank look from those you say this to! So stick with “direct motion” or just say that Saturn orbits the Sun to the east as we see it from Earth.

   Saturn is located over the southern horizon after sunset local time. It is about 7-8o to the east from Jupiter.

   
   
   
   

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The Red Object Tour: From Mars to Aldebaran


   Following a close encounter (conjunction) on September 5th-6th with the ‘Red Planet’ Mars our Moon will orbit eastward waning toward last quarter phase on September 9th. On the 9th the Moon will have a not as close encounter with another red celestial object. This being the reddish star Aldebaran, the ‘angry eye’ of Taurus the Bull.
   Aldebaran is at one of the open ends of the v-shaped open star cluster, the Hyades, the shape making up the Bull’s face.

   You can follow the Moon’s changing daily position with the graphic sequence below.
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   


   
   
   

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September Apogee Moon

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (furthest from Earth), for this orbit, on Sunday September 6th. For this apogee the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon will be at a distance of 31.79 Earth diameters, 252,031 miles (405,606 km) from the Earth.

   On the date of the apogee the 19-day old waning gibbous Moon will be about 5o to the east from the planet Mars and both very visible through the night hours. Not visible to the naked-eye because of the bright Moonshine is the outer planet Uranus with a 5.8 apparent magnitude about 2-3o from the Moon.

   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

   Saturday evening September 5th watch for the 18-day old waning gibbous Moon to be very close, about 0.5-1o, from the planet Mars. Both objects are bright with Mars having a -1.93 apparent magnitude compared with the Moon’s much brighter -12.0 apparent magnitude.
   For another apparent magnitude comparison look west for the planets Jupiter (-2.52) and Saturn (0.33).

   The two, Mars and the Moon, should make for a striking combination with binoculars or low-power telescope eyepiece.

   
   
   

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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)

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

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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A Saturday *2fer

   Saturday August 1st there will be two opportunities for planet and Moon viewing. (a ‘2fer’)
   On Saturday morning before the Sun rises watch for the innermost planet Mercury to be about 6-7o from Pollux, one of the two ‘twin stars’ of Gemini the Twins, as this graphic is showing. Venus, if you haven’t noticed, is shining very brightly higher above the southern horizon.
   Then Saturday evening after sunset look for the 12-day old waning gibbous Moon to be about 1-2o from the outer ringed planet Jupiter and about 4-5o from another outer ringed planet, Saturn.
   
   
   
   
   *2fer – suggesting that it is possible to get two instead of one (2 for 1) of whatever is being got.
   
   
   

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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July Moon at Descending Node #2

   Friday July 31st the 11-day old waning gibbous Moon will be crossing the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending 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 waning gibbous Moon will be a few degrees from the outer planet Jupiter and few more degrees from Saturn.

   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)

   
   
   
   
   

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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Comet in the Clouds

   This morning, July 13th, the sky was generally overcast with thin status type clouds in most directions, including the northeast where the comet was just starting to appear over the trees marking my local horizon. Fortunately the clouds were still transparent enough for the comet to be just barely visible to the naked-eye, but very visible with time exposure pictures.
   I was hoping to position my camera so that the Baseball player would look as if he were swinging at the comet but the clouds started to thicken in that direction as I moved off the road and into some tall grasses.
   The other planets that were very visible yesterday morning were hidden or blurred by the clouds. Jupiter shined through the clouds but not Saturn or Mars. The Moon light was reflecting off clouds brightening the sky in that direction. And Venus and Aldebaran were somewhat visible but it took a time exposure picture to catch the light from the rest of the stars making the v-shaped part of the Hyades.

   
   
   

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Comet NEOWISE or NEOWOW!!

   Could it get much better than this? Five visible planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Earth); Moon-Mars conjunction; Venus-Aldebaran conjunction; 2 outer planets and a Dwarf Planet not naked-eye visible, and Comet 2020 F3 (NEOWISE). Icing on the ‘cake’ would have been to have the ISS orbit through the sky this morning.

   
   
   

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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).

   
   
   

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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