Tag: Mars

2019, June 5-30: Mercury and Mars in the Evening Sky

The chart above shows the evening positions of Mercury and Mars from June 5, 2019, to June 30, 2019. The moon is part of the scene on June 5 and June 6.

About 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury and Mars are visible in the west-northwest  beneath Pollux and Castor, the Gemini Twins.  Early in the month, the  stars are about one-third of the way up in the sky.

Mercury is beginning an evening appearance.  Early in the month, it is brighter, but closer to the horizon.

Twilight lasts longer this time of year, so it’s not visible in the latter sky glow as the sky darkens further.  So, the upcoming conjunction with Mars is better viewed with a binocular.  Both planets’ movements are easier viewed across several nights.

On June 5, the waxing crescent moon, the waxing crescent moon that is 2.7 days past the New phase and only 9% illuminated is 6.3° to the upper left of Mars, which sets at the end of evening twilight.  At this time the Red Planet is about 13° up in the west-northwest, a little over halfway between Castor and Pollux and the horizon.

Each evening until the conjunction, Mercury is closer to Mars.

On June 18, Mercury passes close to Mars, less than the moon’s apparent diameter.  The chart above shows them 45 minutes after sunset when they appear in the west-northwest.  Use a binocular to locate them.  Can you see them without a binocular?

As the month progresses, the planets appear lower and in a brighter sky. Continue to use a binocular to track the planets.

By month’s end, a dimmer Mercury appears to the upper left of Mars.

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2019, May 6-7: Aldebaran, Mars, and the Crescent Moon

(On the chart above, the moon’s size is exaggerated.  At this scale, the star Zeta would be covered in May 7.)

The chart shows the western sky at about 1 hour after sunset.  Start looking for the moon beginning about 30 minutes after sunset.  Check your sources — television, newspaper, or Internet — for the time of your local sunset.

On May 6, the crescent moon (2.1 days past the New phase, 5% illuminated), 11° up in the west-northwest, is 2.2° to the upper right of Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus.   The moon is nearly 14° below Mars.

An hour after sunset, locate Mars between Elnath and Zeta Tauri, 4.5° to the lower left of Elnath and 3.4° to the upper right of the Bull’s southern horn.

On the next evening, an hour after sunset, the moon (3.1 days old, 11% illuminated) is 0.3° to the lower left of Zeta Tauri. Mars is 3.3° to the upper right of the star.

Use a binocular to look that the moon these two evenings.  You’ll notice that the moon’s night portion is slightly illuminated.  This is known as Earthshine.  From the moon, Earth is nearly full, and would be very bright to an observer on the lunar surface; it is bright enough to cast shadows on the moon’s night portion.  Earthshine is from reflected sunlight from Earth’s clouds, land, and oceans.  This sunlight gently illuminates the night portion of the moon in the same manner our planet is illuminated when the moon is near its Full phase.  Click here for an example of the crescent moon with Earthshine.

2019, April 1-30: Mars Moves Through Taurus

This chart shows the motion of Mars against the starry background of Taurus during April 2019.

In the evening sky, Mars is moving through Taurus’ brighter star field. Follow the planet through a binocular as it passes between the Pleiades star cluster and the Hyades star cluster. The “V” of Taurus is nearly vertical this time of year. The stars of winter are making their final stand in the evening sky for the year, capped by an arc of stars – Procyon, Pollux, Castor and Capella.  The Gemini Twins stand high in the western sky with their arms around the other twin’s shoulders. Sirius is about 25° up in the southwest.  Watch it slowly begin to disappear into bright twilight.  Its last appearance in the evening sky occurs in mid-May.  The sun is in the sky for nearly 12.75 hours and the sky is dark, from the end of evening twilight to the beginning of morning twilight, for slightly over 8 hours.

In the notes that follow, the brightness of celestial objects is noted.  The lower the number the brighter the object.  The brightest stars have magnitudes that are rated 1 on the magnitude scale.  These can be seen from many bright areas.  As you move into suburban areas, magnitudes 2 and 3 are visible.  Fourth and fifth magnitude stars are visible from more rural areas.

Additionally, some stars have proper names as well as Greek letter designations, and sometimes numerical designations.

To determine the end of twilight in your area, find the local time in your area.  Add 100 minutes to your local sunset time.  By that time the sky is dark enough to find the constellations and Mars.

Look in the west about one-third of the way up in the sky, from horizon to overhead.  You’ll find Mars there along with the celestial backdrop of Taurus the Bull.

  • April 1: At the end of evening twilight, Mars, about 28° up in the west, is 3.3° to the left of the Alcyone (η Tau, m = 2.8), the brightest of the Pleiades, and 2.6° below 37 Tauri (37 Tau, m = 4.4). For the next several evenings we have chosen stars in Taurus to reference with Mars.
  • April 2: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is over 27° up in the west.  It is 3.5° to the upper left of Alcyone and 1.9° to the lower right of 37 Tauri.
  • April 3:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 1.2° below 37 Tauri.
  • April 4:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is just below a virtual line that extends from Alcyone to Aldebaran (α Tau, m = 0.8).  The planet is 3.5° to the lower right of Omega Tauri (ω Tau, m = 4.9) and 0.6° below 37 Tauri.
  • April 5: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 0.3° to the left of 37 Tauri, above a virtual line from Alcyone to Aldebaran.
  • April 6:  After the end of evening twilight, Mars is 0.8° to the upper left of 37 Tauri and 2.5° to the lower right of Omega Tauri.
  • April 7: At the end of twilight, find Mars, 2.1° to the right of Omega Tauri.
  • April 8:  At the end of evening twilight, the moon (3.7 days old, 14% illuminated) is about 6° to the lower left of Mars. The Red Planet is 4.5° to the lower right of Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau, m = 3.5), which compliments Aldebaran’s position in the head of Taurus at the top right point of the “V.”
  • April 9: . At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 1.7° to the upper right of Omega Tauri and 4.2° to the right of Epsilon Tauri, just beneath a virtual line that extends from Aldebaran to Epsilon and to the right. The moon (4.7d, 22%) is not far away, 5.3° above Aldebaran.
  • April 10: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (5.7d, 31%), 41° up in the west, is 3.5° to the upper left of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau, m = 3.0), the southern horn of Taurus.  Mars, 24° up in the west, is 3.8° to the upper right of Epsilon Tauri, just above the imaginary line at that extends from Aldebaran through Epsilon.
  • April 11: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (6.7d, 42%), over 50° up in the south-southwest, is nearly in the middle of Gemini, about 6° to the upper right of Gamma Geminorum (γ Gem, m = 1.9). Mars is 0.9° to the lower right of Upsilon Tauri (υ Tau, m = 4.2).
  • April 12: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (7.7d, 53%), nearly 60° up in the southwest, is over 7° to the lower left of Pollux (β Gem, m = 1.2). Mars is 0.3° to the upper right of Kappa1 Tauri (κ1 Tau, m=4.2) and 0.3° below Upsilon Tauri.  It also passes 3.5° to the upper right of Epsilon Tauri.
  • April 13: At the end of evening twilight Mars is 0.4° to the upper left of Upsilon Tauri.
  • April 15: Mars is nearly midway between Upsilon Tauri and Tau Tauri (τ Tau, m = 4.3). Through a telescope, Mars is only 4” across, much smaller in apparent size than when it appeared at opposition last summer.
  • April 16: At the end of evening twilight, the moon (11.7d, 92%), nearly 50° up in the southeast, is over 12° to the lower right of Denebola.  Mars (m = 1.6) is 1.3° to the right of Tau Tauri.
  • April 17:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars continues its traverse of Taurus.  This evening it is 0.7° to the lower right of Tau Tauri.
  • April 18: At the end of twilight, Mars is 0.3° to the upper right of Tau Tauri.
  • April 19:  At the end of evening twilight Mars, marching through Taurus, is 0.6° above Tau Tauri.
  • April 20: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 1.3° above Tau Tauri and 4° to the lower right of Iota Tauri (m=4.6), next star to mark Mars’ course through the starry background.
  • April 21:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2° to the upper left of Tau Tauri and 3.5° to the lower right of Iota Tauri.
  • April 22:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 3° to the lower right of Iota Tauri.
  • April 23:At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.7° to the right of Iota Tauri and nearly 10° from Zeta Tauri, the southern horn of Taurus.
  • April 24: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.3° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and over 9° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.  If you have a good western horizon and you can still view the “V” of Taurus, although it is low in the west-northwest, notice that Mars is above it for the next few evenings.  This evening Mars is over 9° to the upper right of Aldebaran.
  • April 25: At the end of evening twilight, Mars, nearly 24° up in the west-northwest, is 2.2° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and over 8° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 26: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.3° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and 8° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 27:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.6° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and over 7° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 28: At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 2.7° to the upper right of Iota Tauri and about 7° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 29:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars is 3.4° above Iota Tauri and over 6° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.
  • April 30:  At the end of evening twilight, Mars, nearly 16° up in the west-northwest, is 3.9° above Iota Tauri and about 6° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri.

 

2019, March 17: Mars Approaches the Pleiades

2019, March 17: Mars is about 10 degrees below the Pleiades.

Mars, in eastern Aries, is nearly starting its March through Taurus.  Mars is the lone planet in the evening sky. This evening, with a bright sky from a very gibbous moon, Mars is nearly 10 degrees below the Pleiades star cluster.  It passes the Pleiades later in the month.  With a binocular, investigate the two star clusters — Pleiades and Hyades — and track Mars as it moves against the distant star field.

2019, March 11: Moon, Mars, and Winter Stars

This evening, the crescent moon (overexposed on the image, is about 7.5 degrees to the left of Mars.  Tomorrow evening the moon is between the Pleiades and the Hyades star clusters.  Take a look with a binocular.

The star clusters are considered part of Taurus.  The Pleiades resemble a tiny dipper.  Through a binocular you can see a dozen or so stars.  The Hyades are to the left of the Pleiades.  They make a “check mark” shape.  When Aldebaran is included, the patter resembles a letter “V,” the face of the Bull.  Aldebaran could be considered its fiery red eye.  Zeta Tauri and Elnath are considered to be the bull’s horns.

Watch Mars move closer to Pleiades as the month progresses.  It passes them late in the month.

In focus, the moon is 5.4 days old and displaying a crescent phase that is 25% illuminated.

The flagship of winter constellations is Orion, with its bright stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, appears in the southern sky during early evening hours.  With a binocular look below the three stars, Orion’s belt, toward Rigel.  The region has a hazy cloud, the Orion Nebula, where stars are forming.  Betelgeuse, along with Sirius, the Dog Star, and Procyon, the Little Dog Star, make an equilateral triangle known as the Winter Triangle.  Take a look at them through your binocular and you can see some interesting contrasts of star color.

2019, March 25-31: Mars Passes the Pleiades

Late in March, step outside about 90 minutes after sunset.  (Check the sunset time for your location.)  Orion is less than halfway up in the southwest.  Taurus, with its star clusters — the Pleiades and Hyades — are farther to the right (north) of Orion.  With the yellow-orange star Aldebaran, the stars of the Hyades make a letter “V.”  The Pleiades, a cluster of bluish stars that resemble a miniature dipper, are farther to the right.  This tiny cluster may have initially caught your attention out of the corner of your eye, as you first looked up.  Take a look with binoculars, as a telescope has too much magnification to take in all the Pleiades or Hyades.  In the Pleiades you may see a few dozen stars though your binoc.  The stars are vivid blue, indicating blazing high temperatures.

Mars, an orangish looking bright “star,” is to the lower left of the Pleiades cluster.  Each night Mars moves closer to the cluster, and passes closest on March 30.  Take a look each night to see Mars’ movement through space compared to the starry background.

We are referencing the cluster’s bright star, Alcyone, in the measurements.

One degree is the twice the size the full moon appears in the sky.

Watch Mars move closer and then past the cluster as the month closes.

  • March 25: Mars is 4.9° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 26: Mars is 4.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 27: Mars is 3.9° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 28: Mars is 3.6° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 29: Mars is 3.3° to the lower left of Alcyone.
  • March 30: Mars passes 3.1° to the lower left of Alcyone and the Pleiades, a beautiful view through a binocular.
  • March 31: Mars is 3.2° to the lower left of Alcyone. Tonight Mars is nearly the same distance as last night and slightly higher in the sky.

2019, February 8: Mars and Planet Uranus, Before Conjunction

2019, February 8: Mars is nearly 3 degrees to the lower right of Uranus this evening.

Bright Mars, shining in the west this evening, is moving through the dimmer stars of Pisces.  On February 12 it passes the planet Uranus.  This evening it is about 3 degrees to the lower right of the planet.  Use binoculars to locate the planet as its brightness is at the limit of human vision.  Magnify the image to see the planet.