2017, July 21: Venus and Moon

That brilliant star above the moon this morning is Venus.  The moon is nearly 8 degrees to the lower left of the Morning Star.  They were slight closer yesterday morning.

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2017, June 20: Venus and Moon

Brilliant Venus and the waning crescent moon sparkle in the eastern morning sky this morning.  The two are about 7.5 degrees apart.

Notice the night portion of the moon,  It is gently illuminated by sunlight reflected from planet Earth:  Earthshine!

 

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2017, June: Saturn at Opposition

The Ringed Wonder reaches opposition on the morning of June 15.  At this time our planet is between Saturn and the sun.  On the evenings around opposition, Saturn rises in the opposite direction from the sunset point.  As Earth rotates, it rises higher in the sky each hour.  At midnight it is in the southern sky.  From that time, the planet begins to appear lower in the sky, setting in the southwest as the sun rises in the northeastern sky.

On the evening of June 8, the waning gibbous (just past full) moon appears nearly 3 degrees to the upper left of Saturn.  The reddish star Antares is nearly 16 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.

This is the last opposition of naked eye planets this year.

The three outer planets, which includes Pluto, have oppositions this year, but they are only observed with optical assistance:

  • Pluto,  July 10
  • Neptune, September 5
  • Uranus, October 19

Observers are interested in oppositions because at this time, the planet at opposition is closest to Earth and so the planet’s observable features are easiest to see through telescopes.  The planet is in the sky all night and highest in the sky at midnight.

Photo credit:  Lowell Observatory

During an 1894 Mars opposition, Percival Lowell first began to document his later disproved discovery of “canals.”  While remote satellites give close-up images of the distant worlds, there are few more memorable events than seeing Jupiter, Saturn or Mars through a telescope.

In 2018, the three naked eye outer planets appear at opposition within an 80-day period:

  • Jupiter, May 8
  • Saturn, June 27
  • Mars, July 27

As they emerge from their solar conjunctions later in the year, they appear with Venus in the morning sky, including another Venus-Jupiter Epoch Conjunction.  More about these events as they approach.

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2017, June: Jupiter in Evening Sky

Jupiter is the bright “star” in the southern sky during the early evening hours this month. On June 3, the waning gibbous moon appears about 2 degrees to the upper left of the giant planet.  Spica appears 11 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter.  The constellation Corvus the Crow is nearby.

Jupiter ends its retrograde motion on June 8th and begins to move eastward again as compared to the sidereal background.  It slowly appears to move toward Spica, passing on September 5.

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2017, June: Venus in the Morning Sky

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Venus is the “bright star” in the eastern predawn sky during June 2017.

On June 3, Venus reaches its greatest angular separation from the sun, rising about 2 hours before sunrise.  During its appearance so far, Venus has been rising during morning twilight.  On June 10, this bright planet begins rising before morning twilight starts.  By month’s end, it rises over 2 hours, 30 minutes before the sun and over twenty minutes before the beginning of morning twilight.

On the mornings of  June 20 and June 21, the waning crescent moon appears near Venus.  On June 20, the moon is nearly 7.5 degrees to the upper right of Venus.  On the next morning our lunar neighbor is about the same angular distance to the lower left of Venus.

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Update:  Here’s the view this morning, June 20.

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Update 2:  Here’s the view this morning, June 21.

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2017, May 22: Venus and Moon

Brilliant Venus and the waning crescent moon appear together this morning in the eastern sky.  The moon is about 3.5 degrees from Venus this morning.

For more information about the planets see:

2017, May 11: Jupiter, Spica & Big Dipper

Jupiter shines in the southeastern sky during the early evening hours near the star Spica.  Jupiter is about 10 degrees to the upper left of the star and the planet is over 20 times brighter.  The giant planet continues to retrograde for about another month.  (For details see the link at the bottom of this posting.)  Through binoculars, up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons might be visible.  The constellation Corvus is nearby.  It consists of four stars that make an irregular box.

Meanwhile the Big Dipper is nearly overhead during the early evening hours of May.  Its famous double star, Mizar and Alcor are visible.

For more information about the planets see: