A Darker View

Archive
Conjunctions and Occulations

Over the next few days Venus will swing quite close to Neptune. Today the pair is separated by 2°41′. This will decrease to 49′ on the 11th and remain close at 51′ on the 12th.

The pair is quite a mismatch… Neptune is a mere 7.9 magnitude while Venus is a brilliant -4.2, over 60,000 times brighter. The 4.8 magnitude star σAqr will be 1.5° southwest of the two, the only nearby object that can be confused for the planet.

Next month, on May 15th, Venus will pass about 1° from to Uranus for a similar oddball conjunction.

Tonight the Moon and Jupiter will be close. The Moon will rise first, at 10:56HST, most of an hour ahead of Jupiter, placing the two quite high in the sky at sunset. The Moon will be 39% illuminated and about 10° from the bright planet. Tomorrow night the pair will be much closer, about 6.5° apart.

Tomorrow morning, March 26th, will see a brilliant Venus paired with a crescent Moon. Look for the pair to rise about 03:48HST to be 32° above the horizon at sunrise. An 21% illuminated Moon will be a nice match for Venus shining brilliantly at -4.3 magnitude. Separation will be about 9&deg.

The following morning, March 27th, will see the pair even closer with the Moon 6° below Venus. Observant sky-watchers will note Mercury another 18° closer to the eastern horizon and the rising Sun.

Tonight the Moon and Jupiter will be close. The Moon will rise first, at 13:04HST, about ten minutes ahead of Jupiter, placing the two well up in the eastern sky by sunset. The Moon will be quite large, 65% illuminated and about 6° from the bright planet. Tomorrow night the pair will still be seen together, about 11° apart.

With Jupiter this close to the Moon it is an excellent time to see Jupiter in the daytime sky. Look 6° northeast of the Moon for a bright pinpoint of light. 6° is 12 times the size of the Moon seen in the sky, north will be to the left seen as the pair rises above the eastern horizon.

Tomorrow morning, Feb 27th, the planet Mercury can be seen about 3° below the rising Moon. Mercury will rise about 05:29HST and be over 15° above the horizon at sunrise. The Moon will be quite old, a very thin 4% illuminated crescent. the pairing should make for a pretty dawn.

Crescent Venus

Venus approaching inferior conjunction, 24Dec2013

Tomorrow morning, February 24th, will see a brilliant Venus paired with a crescent Moon. Look for the pair to rise about 04:00HST to be 33° above the horizon at sunrise. An 18% illuminated Moon will be a nice match for Venus shining brilliantly at -4.6 magnitude. Separation will be about 7&deg.

The following morning, February 25th, will see the Moon 7° below Venus. Observant sky-watchers will note Mercury another 16° closer to the eastern horizon and the rising Sun.

Tomorrow morning, Feb 21st, the Moon will be in close attendance with Saturn, separated by a little under 4°. The two will be high in southern the sky before dawn, a last quarter Moon will be 61% illuminated. Saturn can be seen as a 0.5 magnitude object just East of the Moon and west of the head of Scorpio. The following morning, Feb 22nd, the Moon will have moved to the other side of the ringed planet with a separation of just over 8°.

Viewers on the other side of the world will be able to see a very close pairing of the two, less than half a degree apart or even in occultaion depending on location. Close approach will be about 14:00 HST on the 21st. You could make an attempt to view the pair in the daytime sky, Saturn is bright enough to be seen next to the Moon in a modest telescope or even a good pair of binoculars. Unfortunately the Moon sets around 11:00, a few hours before close approach here in the islands.

Tonight the Moon and Jupiter will be quite close. The pair will rise at nearly the same time, about 15:09HST, placing the two well up in the eastern sky by sunset. The Moon will be quite large, 87% illuminated and about 5° from the bright planet.

With Jupiter this close to the Moon it is an excellent time to see Jupiter in the daytime sky. Look 5° north of the Moon for a bright pinpoint of light. 5° is ten times the size of the Moon seen in the sky, north will be to the left seen as the pair rises above the eastern horizon.

Amateur astronomers love lists… The Messier observing list, the Hershel 400, the Hershel II, and on. Some lists can be complete on a night or two, some lists may take years, or even a lifetime to accomplish. Amateur astronomy is not the only avocation to use lists like this. Birders attempt to see all of the birds known to occur in their home country. Aircraft spotters love to see each model of aircraft in the air. Divers keep lists of species seen underwater.

Lists like these are not only fun, but allow the list chaser to sample the wonders our universe has to offer. The challenge of finding and observing each of the items is worthwhile. Each object is a lesson into the science, hunting each object allows skills to be practiced.

Most of the astronomy observing lists require a small telescope to accomplish, or at least a pair of binoculars. One list is a bit different, it does not require any optical aid at all… The Naked Eye 100.

Continue reading Naked Eye 100 Challenge…

Crescent Venus

Venus approaching inferior conjunction, 24Dec2013

Tomorrow morning, January 28th, will see a brilliant Venus paired with a thin crescent Moon. Look for the pair to rise about 5:08HST to be 23° above the horizon at sunrise. A 7% illuminated Moon will be a nice match for Venus shining brilliantly at -4.5 magnitude. Separation will be about 6.5&deg.

The following morning, January 29th, will see the Moon 10° below Venus, halfway to the rising Sun.