Moon – Venus Conjunction

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   This evening at sunset look toward the western horizon for the 3.5 day old waxing crescent Moon to be within about 1.5 degrees from the planet Venus. Both the Moon and Venus are on the same side of the Sun, to the left or east, however they do not show the same phase shape. With enough magnification the planet Venus will be shown to be in its waning gibbous phase as compared to the crescent phase shape for the Moon, and as the banner graphic at the top of the page shows.
moon-cusps   There are times when the two have the same phase shape but since one orbits the Sun and the other the Earth it only happens at certain times, like at sunset when the Moon is at waxing crescent and Venus is close to inferior conjunction. At that time Venus will appear as a relatively large crescent shape with the cusps pointing toward the east away from the Sun as will the cusps for the Moon. FYI: the cusps always point away from the Sun.

   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus-Spica Conjunction

   This evening look toward the western horizon for the brightly shining planet Venus a couple of degrees from the less bright star Spica. Spica in many mythologies represents a bundle of wheat held in the left hand of the Harvest Maiden. Although at this time of the year it looks more the Maiden is doing a back dive toward the horizon!

7x50 Binoculars

7×50 Binoculars

   As this simulated view through binoculars shows both planet and star are approximately 1.5 degrees apart. Over the next several days you will see Venus moving eastward (left) in its orbital motion taking it away from Spica while at the same time and as a result of the Earth’s orbital motion the sky in the west sets about 4 minutes earlier each day.
   What does the latter statement mean? Well, try the following observation and you will see the effect of the Earth orbiting (revolving) around the Sun. So from our perspective on the Earth it looks like the the Sun is moving eastward each day. Another way to think about this is to note that each day a star, Spica for example, sets a little earlier, and conversely Spica would rise a little later each day. Maybe not noticeable right away but after a week or so or longer it will.
   Confusion clarification time! The above involves apparent motions created by Earth revolution – not to be confused with the apparent motions created by Earth rotation. When facing south in the northern hemisphere, or facing north in the southern hemisphere as the Earth rotates from west to east the ‘sky’ (Sun, stars, planets, Moon) appears to rise above the horizon in the east, moves in a curved path toward the west, and then setting below the western horizon.
   Observation: If possible go out at sunset for a few days in a row and make a note of the position of Venus and Spica. After a few days of observing at the same time, at sunset, you will notice that Spica sets earlier each day – is lower above the western horizon at sunset – eventually is no longer visible. Venus will do the same thing but because unlike Spica Venus’s orbit is around the Sun so it will take a few months before Venus is setting earlier and too low at sunset to be visible.

   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus-Regulus Conjunction

Venus Meets Regulus

Click on image for full size

   This evening and tomorrow evening the inner planet Venus will be about 1 degree from the bright star Regulus in Leo the Lion. Venus is currently moving eastward along its orbital path out away from the Sun. This month and next month Venus will be the ‘bright’ object over the western horizon at sunset. However due to the low angle of the ecliptic Venus will not be very high above the western horizon as viewed from the northern hemisphere. Click here to see a graphic showing the ecliptic and Venus’s orbital path.
venus   As seen from a backyard perspective with a telescope Venus appears relatively small and in the gibbous phase.
   Click here for VR view of the sky – requires the Quicktime Player if the video file is downloaded.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Venus Transits M-35

m35-zoom   If the sky is clear this evening, Wednesday 4 June, and you have a reletively level western horizon look for the planet Venus to be merged with the open star cluster M-35. Depending on the time of observation the planet will be transiting M-35 and its position relative to star cluster will be slightly different.
   Venus is doing a repeat of what Mercury did a few days ago as it passed close by M-35. Both of these two inner planets are currently moving eastward out away from the Sun coming from superior conjunction on the opposite side of the sun, toward their respective eastern elongation.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

Equality at Sunset

9 p.m. CDT

9 p.m. CDT

   An interesting arrangement of the two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, is taking place at sunset local time. Jupiter and the last of the winter constellation are over the western horizon as it is setting. While above the eastern horizon is the planet Saturn as it rises with the stars of spring. For the next few evenings each planet will be approximately the same altitude above their respective horizon at 9 p.m. local time as the banner graphic at the top of the page shows.

   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.