January Moon at 2nd Apogee

   Our Moon reaches apogee, (greatest distance from Earth), for this orbit, on Wednesday January 29th. At that time the Moon will be at a distance of 31.78 Earth diameters 251,899 miles (405,393 km) from the Earth.

   On the day of the apogee Moon the 5-day old waxing crescent Moon rises around mid-morning and sets before midnight. At around sunset the Moon will over the southwestern horizon with Venus shining brightly lower and closer to the horizon.

   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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Venus and Moon: A 2-Day Affair

   After the very thin waxing crescent Moon passed the innermost planet Mercury on the evening of the 25th the Moon continues its eastward orbit, and over a 2-day period the waxing crescent Moon passes by the other inner planet, Venus. On the evenings of January 27th and 28th the 3-4-day old waxing crescent Moon will be within 7o from Venus. On the 27th the Moon will be to the west and on the 28th the Moon will be east from Venus. Both conjunctions will fit within the field of view of binoculars.
   On the evening of the 27th Venus will be less than 0.5o from the 4th magnitude star Phi Aquarii. This is an interesting contrast in magnitudes between the 4th magnitude star and nearby Venus. Venus also has a magnitude of 4, however for Venus it is a -4.0 apparent magnitude!


   
   
   

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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Young Moon – Mercury Conjunction

   Early Saturday evening January 25th the 1.5-day young thin waxing crescent Moon will be about 1-2o from the innermost planet Mercury. Both are within about 15o, or about 1 hour, behind (to the east) from the Sun as this graphic shows. Local time for sunset is around 5:30 pm CST and the Moon and Mercury set approximately 1 hours later.

   This is definitely a binocular viewing opportunity especially for trying to see a very young crescent Moon. The youngest observed Moon on record was seen by Stephen James O’Meara in May of 1990 when he saw a 15 hour 32 minute crescent Moon.

   However be very careful as the Sun is close to the Moon and Mercury.

   
   
   

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 New Year’s Eve Skies of 2019

   The evening skies of this year’s New Year’s Eve begins at sunset with the 6-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 3-4o from the outer planet Neptune. However with an apparent magnitude of 8 Neptune is only visible with optical assistance. On the other hand the crescent Moon with an apparent magnitude of -13 would be hard to miss!

   Later, at around midnight and centered over the southern horizon will be the ‘regular’ Northern Hemisphere winter display of stars. This is a familiar groups of bright stars in a rough circle around the constellation of Orion the Hunter, and sometimes referred to as the “Winter Hexagon” or ‘Winter Circle”.

   As the winter hexagon the member stars are Rigel in Orion the Hunter, Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull, Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Pollux and Castor in the Gemini Twins, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Sirius in Canis Major.


   
   
   
   We’ve survived another orbit.
   
   
          Happy New 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.


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Moon – Venus Conjunction

   Friday evening December 28th over the western horizon around sunset look for the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon to be about 2o from the inner planet Venus. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   I should clarify that the view of the conjunction as described above is based on my latitude and longitude in the midwest U.S.A. The separation between the Moon and Venus will vary depending on your location. At other geographic locations, like southern South America and Antarctica, the crescent Moon occults Venus.

   The occultation begins at 2 UT or for my time zone at 9:00 pm CST.

   This animated graphic is set for a latitude of 56oS to show the Venus Occultation. Venus was also enlarged to make it more visible in the graphic.

   
   
   

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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Tales Along the Ecliptic

   Once in a while the planets are arranged such that they are spread across the sky as they look in this graphic. However over time, several days, this arrangement changes as the planets continue moving along their orbits.
   The planets are not lined up in a straight line outward from the Sun but rather are arranged along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun and the respective orbit of each planet is inclined from the ecliptic. And this is one of those times when it is easy to visualize the ecliptic. Click here to read a previous posting about the ecliptic and planet inclination.

   This animated graphic is showing the terrestrial planets as they move along their respective orbits for this month. They are not ‘lined up’ as they appear to be in the above horizon picture.

   This graphic shows the solar system out to Neptune and from this perspective the planets are obviously not in a straight line on December 1st.

   
   
   

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 Descending Node

   Yesterday Friday November 29th the Moon crossed the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic. For those keeping count this is the 2nd descending node crossing for the Moon this 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.


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