Month: December 2017

2017, December 27: The Moon

The nearly 10-day-old waxing gibbous moon shines high in the southeast this evening. Mare Imbrium, a large impact feature that is now a filled with cooled volcanic material, is nearly in sunlight. Imbrium is over 700 miles in diameter, easily visible without a telescope. Copernicus, lies south of Imbrium, now has its lunar morning as it is near the terminator, the division between daylight and nighttime.

Eratosthenes appears to the upper right of Copernicus at the western edge of the Apennine Mountains that form the rim of the Imbrium region.

Tycho is now in full sun farther to the south.  Its rays make it look like a huge lunar bug.  These bright lines are from material that splattered across the surface when a large meteorite crashed into the moon.  The greyish splash is easier observed in a few nights as the moon’s phase continues to wax.

Clavius is below Tycho.

To the lower left of Tycho and along the terminator where the shadows are longer from the rising sun, Longomontanus is visible.  Immediately north of Longomontanus is a cluster of three overlapping craters; the obvious one in the image is Wilhem.

All of these features are visible in the lunar image when it is magnified on the computer screen.

Lunar observing is an easy and inexpensive way to get started in astronomy.  The binoculars that are used for bird watching and sporting events can be aimed at the moon to view its features.  The moon is easily found in the sky and can form the basis of a regular observing habit as the changing phase either reveals or hides features:  craters, mountains, plains, and valleys.  Certainly this is a way to introduce a child to astronomy.  The investment in a good binocular is relatively inexpensive.  If the interests wanes, then the binocular has other functions.

If you’re interested in exploring the lunar surface further, a  good resource is Exploring the Moon Through Binoculars by Ernest Cherrington.  The book is now out-of-print, but might be found on the resale market inexpensively.  The author wrote another lunar observing book with a similar title, Exploring the Moon Through Binoculars and Small Telescopes.  This can be found inexpensively and in electronic versions.

Happy lunar observing.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

 

 

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2017, December 17: Jupiter, Mercury and Mars

Mercury joins bright Morning Star Jupiter and Mars during this morning’s twilight.  This speedy planet is approaching its greatest western (morning) elongation in January 1.  This morning it is 28 degrees to the Giant Planet’s lower left.  Mercury is the brightest “star” near the horizon shining from the approaching sunrise.  It is easily visible without binoculars or a telescope.  Find a clear horizon to see it.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2017, December 27: Jupiter and Mars

Bright Morning Star Jupiter shines from the southeast this morning with Mars nearby. This morning the planets are 4.75 degrees apart. Their conjunction is January 7.  Jupiter is 1.25 degrees from Zubenelgenubi.

Watch both planets move eastward compared to the starry background during the next several weeks.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2017, December 19: Jupiter and Mars

Bright Jupiter shines as a Morning Star in the southeast this morning with Mars nearby.  In two mornings, Jupiter passes the star for the first of three times (triple conjunction) during this appearance.  On Thursday morning they are one-half degree apart.  That is the apparent diameter of the moon in the sky.  This morning they are 0.75 degree apart.

Mars continues its steady eastward march.  It passes Jupiter on January 7. It has moved nearly 12 degrees since it passed Spica.   This morning the planets are 8.25 degrees apart.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2017, December 16: Jupiter and Mars

Bright Jupiter and Mars shine from the southeast this morning,  The planets are 9.8 degrees apart this morning with Mars closing in on its January 7 conjunction with Jupiter.

Jupiter slowly heads eastward toward its December 21 conjunction with Zubenelgenubi, the first of three (triple conjunction) with that star.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2017, December 14: Jupiter, Mars and Moon

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Bright Jupiter and Mars shine in a clearing sky this morning with the waning crescent moon — overexposed in the image — 4 degrees from Jupiter.  Mars continues its eastward march; it is 10.5 degrees from Jupiter this morning.  Compare Mars’ position this morning with its location on December 1.

Jupiter is heading toward its first conjunction of three with Zubenelgenubi in a week.

The moon is just a few days before its new phase.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):

2017, December 12: Jupiter, Mars, and Moon

Jupiter shines brightly this morning, along with Mars and the crescent moon, overexposed in this image.  Mars is marching eastward toward a January 7 conjunction with Jupiter.  This morning they are 11.4 degrees apart.

Jupiter is approaching its first of three  conjunctions with the star Zubenelgenubi next week (December 21).

This morning’s crescent moon is 24.3 days old.  Tomorrow the moon is near Mars then it appears near Jupiter.

The articles that follow provide details about the planets visible without optical assistance (binoculars or telescope):