Moon on the Move

   Over the next few evenings, Saturday December 14th, Sunday the 15th, and Monday the 16th the waning gibbous Moon will orbit eastward starting from about 7-8o south of Pollux to passing about 6-8o from M-44, the ‘Beehive Cluster’, an open star cluster in the constellation Cancer the Crab. By Monday the 16th the waning gibbous Moon will be about 2o from the heart of Leo the Lion, the star Regulus.
   During a 24-hour rotation of the Earth the Moon will have moved approximately 15o eastward. In terms of Moon position that 15o is equal to one hour — (divide 360o by 24 hours = 15o). What this has to do with the Moon’s position is that each day or night the Moon rises about 1 hour earlier. These 3 graphics show the effect of this in that it will be about 1 hour later for the Moon to be more or less in the same spot in the sky relative to the horizon.

   
   
   

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December Moon at Ascending Node

   Friday December 13th the 17.5-day old waning gibbous Moon rises between the legs of the Gemini Twins. The Moon will be about 10-11o to the west from the ‘Twin’ Stars Pollux and Gemini. As it is rising the 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.

   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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A Pair of Conjunctions

   Sunday November 24th there will a photo or viewing opportunity during the twilight hour before the Sun rises and after the sun has set. Starting off the day will be a conjunction involving the very thin waning crescent Moon near the ‘Red Planet’ Mars. The two will be separated by about 3-4o. Lower or to the east is the innermost planet Mercury.
   Then, approximately 12 hours later, the Sun has or is about to set and over the western horizon is a cluster of 3 planets. Close together and separated by about 1-2o are the planets Jupiter and Venus. Higher or to the east is the planet Saturn.
    Both of these conjunctions will look great through binoculars or a wide-field eyepiece on a telescope, and obviously will make for interesting pictures.

   
   
   

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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The Leonids Peak and the Moon May Get Stung!

   Sunday night November 17th the 21-day old waning gibbous Moon will pass by the open star cluster M-44, aka the Beehive Cluster. M-44 is a group of stars, an Open Star Cluster, approximately 160 light years distant, within the constellation of Cancer the Crab. Actually seeing the stars in M-44 may not be possible due to the difference in the apparent magnitude of the Moon (-12.4) and the Beehive Cluster (3.4).
   Over the hours when the Moon is above the horizon it will pass by the Beehive Cluster. From some locations you may be able to see the Moon eclipse some of the stars.

   The Leonid Meteor Shower reaches its peak at 6 UT November 18th which for the U.S.A. Central Time Zone (UT-6) the peak is at 12:00 am CST, (just after 11:59 pm CST on the 17th). This means that for my location Leo and the meteor radiant rise around midnight. And then after the meteor radiant and the constellation are above the horizon the reflected sunlight from the Moon will brighten the sky making it difficult to see any but the very brightest meteors.

   
   
   

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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November Moon at Ascending Node

   Late in the evening of Saturday night November 16th the 20-day old waning gibbous Moon rises. As it is rising the 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 day of the node crossing the waning gibbous Moon will be about 7o from the star Pollux in the constellation of the Gemini Twins.

   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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Moon – Hyades Conjunction

   Wednesday evening November 13th watch for the 17-day old waning gibbous Moon to be rising with the stars of the Hyades, a v-shaped open cluster of stars making up the face of the Bull. The Moon will be about 1o from the brightest of the stars in the Hyades, the reddish star Aldebaran. Both, as well as the v-shaped Hyades will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.
   From mythology Aldebaran with its reddish color represents the angry eye of Taurus. In that mythology the angry bull has its head lowered as it appears to be reading an attack on Orion the Hunter.

   
   
   

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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Venus – Antares Conjunction

   Friday evening November 8th the inner planet Venus will be about 4-5o from the reddish star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars. Along with Venus there are several planets visible as this graphic shows.

   
   
   

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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