Tag: Mercury

2020, July 19: See Moon and 5 Planets

See the moon and 5 planets, July 19, 2020
2020, July 19: The moon and five planets stretch across the sky before sunrise.

See the moon and 5 planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn before sunrise on July 19, 2020.

Forty-five minutes before sunrise, the crescent moon and five planets are visible curved across the morning sky on July 19, 2020.  Find a spot with clear horizons in the east-northeast and the southwest.  A binocular may help finding the moon, Mercury, and Jupiter.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Brilliant Venus blazes in the eastern sky.  The star Aldebaran is nearby.
  • The crescent moon, 28.2 days past the New Moon phase and only 1% illuminated, is very low in the east-northeast.  This is where the binocular might help.
  • Mercury is to the right of the moon, about 5°. Make a fist and stretch your arm. Five degrees is about the distance from your thumb knuckle to your pointer finger knuckle. A binocular will help here as well. Can you see Mercury without the binocular once you find it?
  • Bright Mars, not as brilliant as Venus is the “star” that’s about halfway up in the sky in the south-southeast.
  • Jupiter – brighter than Mars, but low in the sky – is just above the horizon in the southwest.
  • Saturn, dimmer than Jupiter, is about 7° to the upper left of the Giant Planet. Both appear to our eyes as “stars.” Their separation is a little more than the knuckle to pointer distance described above. Don’t confuse Saturn with the star Fomalhaut, farther south, but at about the same altitude as Saturn.

Five planets and the crescent moon are in the sky at one time! During the next few mornings five planets are visible, but without the moon. Additionally, Jupiter is quickly leaving the sky. So on successive mornings, look 3-4 minutes earlier each day. You may catch them in the sky until about July 25.

Jupiter and Saturn are headed toward their Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020. Look for them low in the southeast during the early evening hours of July and August 2020.

 

2020, February: Evening Star Venus, Mercury, and Moon

Venus Shines in Southwestern sky
2020, January 19: Venus is visible in the southwest about 40 minutes after sunset. The planet is now setting over 3 hours after sunset.

Brilliant Venus sparkles in the western sky after sunset.  It is so bright that Earth’s neighbor is often mistaken for a passing airplane.  Find Venus throughout February during the early evening hours.

The speedy planet Mercury pops into the evening sky after sunset for its best appearance of 2020.  As Mercury appears higher in the sky, it dims.  Find a clear horizon in the west-southwest and begin looking at about 45 minutes after sunset. It appears as a bright star.  Try to catch it early in its appearance and look for it each evening as it appears higher in the sky, but it is dimmer nearly every evening.  First attempt to look for it with a binocular; then look without optical help.

By mid-month, you’ll need a binocular to find it in the sky, as it much dimmer.

Venus appears high above Mercury.

Venus and Moon February 2020

The moon joins Venus late in the month.  On February 25, find a clear western horizon about 1 hour after sunset.  Each evening the moon is higher in the sky than the previous evening.

The best evening is on February 27, when the moon and Venus seem to appear in a scene of an artist.  Both are nearly at the same altitude above the horizon.  The moon is about 7° to the left of Venus.

You can capture “earthshine” on the night portion of the moon with a tripod-mounted camera.  Exposures ranging from 1 to 10 seconds reveal that the night is gently illuminated by sunlight reflected from Earth.

Here are more details about the moon’s appearance:

  • February 24: The moon returns to the evening sky. Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon (1.4 days past New, 2% illuminated) is nearly 6° up in the west-southwest. It is over 30° below brilliant Venus (m = −4.3).
  • February 25: In the evening sky, one hour after sunset, the moon (2.4d, 5%), over 10° in altitude in the west-southwest, is nearly 20° below Venus.
  • February 26: The moon is at apogee at 5:34 a.m. CST, 252,449 miles away. One hour after sunset, the moon (3.4d, 10%) is over 20° in altitude in the west-southwest. The lunar crescent is about 10° below brilliant Venus.
  • February 27:  In the evening, Venus and the moon (4.4d, 16%) are in a classic artist’s scene. Brilliant Venus is 6.7° to the right of the lunar crescent. Photograph the pair with a tripod-mounted camera. Vary exposures from 1-10 seconds to capture earthshine on the night portion of the moon.
  • February 28:  One hour after sunset, the waxing crescent moon (5.4d, 24%) is over 40° in altitude above the west-southwest horizon. It is nearly 15° to the upper left of brilliant Venus.
  • February 29: Happy Leap Day! In the evening, about one hour after sunset, the thick crescent moon (6.4d, 33%) is over 50° up in the southwest. Brilliant Venus is over 30° up in the west-southwest.

Here are my daily notes for February:

Happy Observing!

2020: The Evening Sky

2020 Setting Sky in west

This chart shows the summary of the setting of the naked-eye planets, moon, and bright stars near the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system, for 2020. The chart shows the setting of these celestial bodies compared to sunset for time intervals up to five hours after the sun’s disappearance. The three phases of twilight are displayed as well. On this chart, activity occurs in the western sky, except for the rising curves (circles) of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. When they rise in the east at sunset, they are at opposition.

As 2020 opens, Venus is the bright Evening Star, appearing in the southwest. Mercury makes its best evening appearance, setting at the end of evening twilight during early February. Mercury’s June elongation is larger, but it sets several minutes before the end of twilight, making it difficult to observe in the brighter sky. After Venus moves past the Pleiades and Aldebaran, it moves toward Elnath (β Tauri), and then plunges toward its inferior conjunction. Jupiter and Saturn pass opposition during July. After Venus disappears from the evening sky, the slow procession of bright stars – Pollux, Regulus, Spica, and Antares – disappears into evening twilight. Jupiter and Saturn appear on the setting chart in late October, just after Mars reaches opposition. The moon has two interesting appearances with the planetary duo on November 19, 2020 and just days before the Jupiter- Saturn Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.

The chart is calculated from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory, for Chicago, Illinois.

Key to symbols: White square, conjunction; yellow triangle, greatest elongation (GE); yellow diamond, greatest brightness (GB).

 

2020: The Morning Sky

2020 Rising Chart

This chart shows the summary of the rising of the naked-eye planets, moon, and bright stars near the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system, for 2020. The chart shows the rising of these celestial bodies compared to sunrise for time intervals up to five hours before the sun’s appearance. The three phases of twilight are displayed as well. On this chart, activity occurs in the eastern sky, except for the setting curves (circles) of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. When they set in the west at sunrise, they are at opposition.

Early in the year, the morning sky offers the three Bright Outer Planets – Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – in the eastern predawn sky. As Mars moves eastward it passes Antares, Jupiter and Saturn. On several mornings, the moon passes the planetary trio. The highlight occurs on the morning of February 18 as the moon occults Mars as sunrise approaches in the Central U.S. Venus enters the morning sky at mid-year. The appearance of a lunar crescent with the brilliant planet is a beautiful sight. The moon appears with Mercury as the planet enters the morning sky in late July. On the morning of July 19, the moon and the five naked eye planets are in the sky. As the moon moves toward its evening appearance, Mercury appears higher in the sky, making it a little easier to see. Venus reaches its period of greatest brightness; the mid-brightness date is marked by the yellow diamond. Venus moves past Aldebaran, Pollux, Regulus, and Spica as it moves towards its superior conjunction in early 2021. Mercury’s best morning appearance occurs during November. While this is its smallest morning elongation, the angle of the ecliptic places it higher in the sky.

The chart is calculated from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory, for Chicago, Illinois.

Key to symbols: White square, conjunction; yellow triangle, greatest elongation (GE); yellow diamond, greatest brightness (GB).

2019: November 21-30: Venus-Jupiter Conjunction, Venus and the Moon & Moon, Mars and Mercury

Morning Sky

The moon passes two bright planets at the end of November.  Start watching on November 21 as the moon approaches them.  Notice each morning that the moon is lower in the sky and its crescent is thinner as it approaches its New Moon phase.

  • November 21: An hour before sunrise, the thinning moon, 32% illuminated, is 50° up in the southeast, is nearly 8° to the lower right of Denebola, the Tail of Leo. Mars is below the moon, over 13° up in the east-southeast. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury is nearly 7° up in the east-southeast.

  • November 22: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon, 21% illuminated, is about 40° up in the southeast, 5.5° above the star. At the same time, Mars is below the moon, about 13° up in the east-southeast. Mercury is over 5° up in the east-southeast, about 10° to the lower left of Mars.

  • November 23: One hour before sunrise, the moon, 12% illuminated, is nearly 8° to the upper left of Spica. Mercury is over 6° up in the east, over 9° to the lower left of Mars.

  • November 24: One hour before sunrise, the thin crescent moon, only 6% illuminated, is 3.7° to the upper left of Mars, 15° up in the east-southeast. Mars is about midway between Spica and Mercury; Mercury – Mars, 9.5°; Mars – Spica, 9.7°. Tomorrow morning, at the closest approach, Mercury and Mars have about the same separation.

Evening Sky

Venus passes Jupiter on November 24, A few evening evenings later the crescent moon passes Venus for its closest approach during this appearance of Venus.

  • November 24: This evening is the Venus – Jupiter conjunction! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter . The next Venus – Jupiter conjunction is February 11, 2021 when the planets are less than 0.5° apart, but this Epoch (close) Conjunction occurs during bright morning twilight. On April 30, 2022, another morning Epoch Conjunction brings the planets within 29’ of each other.

  • November 28:  In the evening, at mid-twilight (about 45 minutes after sunset), Venus (−3.9) and the moon, 6% illuminated) have a classic appearance, with Venus 1.9° to the lower right of the moon. This is the smallest separation between the moon and Venus during this apparition of the planet. Next month, the Moon – Venus gap is 2.4° and widens each month thereafter during this appearance. Venus and the moon appear in the viewfinder of a camera with a 300 mm focal length lens. A longer exposure reveals Earthshine on the moon. At this time, Venus is about 7° up in the southwest and 4.7° to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon is 5.8° to the upper left of Jupiter.

Day-By-Day Description

This text was first published in the TCAA Observer.

  • November 21: An hour before sunrise, the moon (24.3d, 32%), 50° up in the southeast, is nearly 8° to the lower right of Denebola (β Leo, m =2.1). Mars is below the moon, over 13° up in the east-southeast. Fifteen minutes later, Mercury (m = 0.1) is nearly 7° up in the east-southeast. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus, over 8° up in the southwest, is8° to the lower right of Jupiter.
  • November 22: An hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (25.3d, 21%) is about 40° up in the southeast, 5.5° above Gamma Virginis (γ Vir, m = 3.4). At the same time, Mars is below the moon, about 13° up in the east-southeast. Mercury (m = − 0.1) is over 5° up in the east-southeast, about 10° to the lower left of Mars. Thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is 2.1°. Venus is over 8° up in the southwest.
  • November 23: The moon is at perigee at 1:41 a.m. CST, 227,867 miles away. One hour before sunrise, the moon (26.3d, 12%) is nearly 8° to the upper left of Spica. Mercury (m = −0.2) is over 6° up in the east, over 9° to the lower left of Mars. Today Venus moves into Sagittarius. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 9° up in the southwest, is 1.5° to the lower left of Jupiter.
  • November 24: One hour before sunrise, the crescent moon (27.3d, 6%) is 3.7° to the upper left of Mars, 15° up in the east-southeast. Mars is about midway between Spica and Mercury (m = −0.4); Mercury – Mars, 9.5°; Mars – Spica, 9.7°. Tomorrow morning, at the closest approach, Mercury and Mars have about the same separation, although the gap is neither a conjunction nor a quasi-conjunction. At a quasi-conjunction, the planets are within 5°. At a conjunction, they must pass each other in either Right Ascension or ecliptic longitude. Today is the Venus – Jupiter conjunction! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter (m = −1.8). The next Venus – Jupiter conjunction is February 11, 2021 when the planets are less than 0.5° apart, but this Epoch (close) Conjunction occurs during bright morning twilight. On April 30, 2022, another morning Epoch Conjunction brings the planets within 29’ of each other. Tonight, Venus sets at its southern-most azimuth, 236°. It sets here until December 1. The planet is nearly 1.5° below the ecliptic. Jupiter sets at Astronomical Twilight (sun’s altitude, −18°), 98 minutes after sunset.
  • November 25: One hour before sunrise, Mars (m = 1.7) is 15° up in the southeast, 9.5° to the upper right of bright Mercury (m = −0.3), 7° in altitude. The thin crescent moon (28.3d, 2%) is 5.5° to the lower left of Mercury. You’ll need a clear horizon to see the moon. It’s only 3° in altitude. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, over 7° up in the southwest, is 2.0° to the left of Jupiter. Fifteen minutes later, Saturn is 17° up in the southwest, 19° to the upper left of Jupiter.
  • November 26: One hour before sunrise, Mars, nearly 15° up in the east-southeast, is nearly 10° to the upper right of Mercury (m = −0.5). The moon is at its New phase at 9:06 a.m. CST. As evening twilight progresses, attempt to locate Venus 0.6° to the lower left of the Lagoon Nebula (M8, NGC 6530). This is certainly a stretch with the nebula low in the sky and during latter twilight. Venus is 5° up in the southwest, 1 hour after sunset. It is 2.8° to the upper left of Jupiter. This evening Venus sets at the end of twilight when the sun is 18° below the horizon. Venus sets after the end of evening twilight until May 19, 2020.
  • November 27: One hour before sunrise, Mercury, over 7° up in the east-southeast, is 2.1° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi (α Lib, m = 2.8). Use a binocular. Watch Mercury pass the star and move away from it during the next few mornings. At the same time, Mars is nearly 10° to the upper right of Mercury. Thirty minutes after sunset look for the crescent moon (1.3d, 2%), about 5° up in the southwest. It is nearly 11° to the lower right of Venus, with Jupiter between them, but Jupiter is closer to Venus. The planets are 3.7° apart.
  • November 28: Mercury reaches its greatest morning elongation (20.1°) at 4:27 a.m. CST. One hour before sunrise, Mercury (m = −0.6), about 7° up in the east-southeast, is 2.1° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi. This morning’s distance is slightly larger than yesterday’s separation, when fractions of a degree are considered. Mars is over 10° to the upper right of Mercury. In the evening, at mid-twilight (about 45 minutes after sunset), Venus (−3.9) and the moon (2.3d, 6.3%) have a classic appearance, with Venus 1.9° to the lower right of the moon. This is the smallest separation between the moon and Venus during this apparition of the planet. Next month, the Moon – Venus gap is 2.4° and widens each month thereafter during this appearance. Venus and the moon appear in the viewfinder of a camera with a 300 mm focal length lens. A longer exposure reveals Earthshine on the moon. At this time, Venus is about 7° up in the southwest and 4.7° to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon is 5.8° to the upper left of Jupiter.
  • November 29: One hour before sunrise, Mercury, over 6° up in the east-southeast, is 2.6° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi. Mars is over 10° to Mercury’s upper right. Venus is at its most southerly declination, −24.8°. One hour after sunset, this brilliant planet is over 6° up in the southwest and over 5° to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon (3.3d, 12%) is 14° up in the southwest, 1.7° to the lower left of Saturn.
  • November 30: One hour before sunrise, Mars, 15° in altitude in the southeast, is 0.2° to the lower left of Lambda Virginis (λ Vir, m = 2.8). Mercury is nearly 11° to Mars’ lower left. The speedy planet is 3.6° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi. In the evening, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, and the crescent moon span over 31°. Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus is over 8° up in the southwest. Venus passes 0.8° to the upper right of Kaus Borealis (λ Sgr, m = 2.8), the star at the top of the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. Through a telescope, Venus is 11.6” in diameter and 89% illuminated. Jupiter is nearly 7° to the lower right of Venus. Jupiter continues its eastward crawl toward Saturn, over 18° to Jupiter’s upper left. The crescent moon (4.3d, 20%), 22° up in the southwest, is over 13° to the upper left of Saturn.

 

2019, November 11-20: Mercury Transit & Morning and Evening Planets

Morning Sky

Mars is low in the eastern sky about 1 hour before sunrise near the star Spica.  The planet is dimmer and redder than blue Spica.  During the next several mornings watch Mars move away from Spica.  The chart above shows the planet and the star about one hour before sunrise.  Both are low in the east-southeast.

Begin looking for the moon in the western sky during pre-sunrise hours on November 12.  On the morning of Nov 14, notice that the bright moon is above Aldebaran and the “V” of Taurus.

During these morning hours, watch the moon appear farther east and higher in the sky each morning.

Mercury begins a morning appearance.  On November 20, it is low in the east-southeast about one hour before sunrise.  Find a clear horizon to see it.

Evening Sky

Venus becomes easier to see if you look early enough.  The chart above shows the early evening sky, about 30 minutes after sunset on November 11.  Venus closes in on Jupiter for a November 24 conjunction.  This evening Venus and Jupiter are 13° apart.  Saturn is dimmer and farther to south.  It will become visible as the sky darkens further.

The bright moon is in the eastern sky during evening hours November 11 – 16.  Look for it in the east, beginning one hour after sunset on November 11.  Each night look one hour later.  It appears in the eastern sky each night, with a slightly different phase, and in front of other stars.

By November 20, brilliant Venus is 3.9° to the lower right of Jupiter.  Look shortly after sunset.  Find a clear horizon.

Daily Notes

The notes were originally published in the Observer.

  • November 11: One hour before sunrise, Mars, over 10° up in the east-southeast, is 2.9° to the left of Spica. Mercury transits (crosses) the sun’s disk today. This is a slow-moving event, about 5.5 hours long as the sun rises higher into the sky. Mercury is moving east to west when it is between Earth and sun. So the planet appears to move from the lower left to the upper right on the sun’s face. Mercury is 10” across, only slightly smaller in apparent size than Venus current angular diameter and three times larger than Mars. The transit begins a few minutes before sunrise (6:37 a.m. CST). By 9:20 a.m. the planet is in the center of the sun’s disk when the sun is about 20° in altitude in the southeast. (At 9:22 a.m. Mercury is officially at inferior conjunction, moving toward the morning sky.) When the sun is in the south at 11:40 a.m. CST, Mercury is nearing the upper right limb of the sun. Shortly after noon (12:02 p.m. CST), the full disk of Mercury last appears in front of the sun. The solar disk is over 30° up in the southern sky. The planet completely leaves the sun’s face two minutes later. The next two transits of Mercury (November 13, 2032, and November 7, 2039) are not visible from Central Illinois. Both start after midnight and end before sunrise. The next transit of Mercury that is visible from the area occurs on May 7, 2049, when the transit begins at 6:03 a.m. CDT (if daylight saving time exists then) and ends at 12:44 p.m. CDT. One hour after sunset, the moon (14.8d, 100%) is about 11° up in the east. The Pleiades have about the same altitude as the bright moon; they are about 20° to the left of the lunar orb.
  • November 12: One hour before sunrise, Mars, over 10° in altitude in the east-southeast, is 3.1° to the left of Spica. At the same time, the moon (15.3d, 100%) is 8° up in the west. If you can see dimmer stars, the Pleiades are nearly 15° above the moon. The moon is at its Full phase at 7:34 a.m. CST. One hour after sunset, the moon (15.8d, 100%) is 5° up in the east-northeast.
  • November 13: One hour before sunrise, Mars is over 11° up in the east-southeast, 3.4° to the lower left of Spica. The moon (16.3d, 99%) is farther west at this time, about 20° up in the west. It is about 10° to the lower right of Aldebaran (α Tau, m = 0.8). Thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is over 10°. Venus is 6° up in the southwest. Two hours after sunset, the moon (16.9d, 98%) is nearly 9° up in the east-northeast. It is at the top of the “V” of Taurus, which is on its side when it rises. The bright moon is between Aldebaran and Epsilon Tauri (ε Tau, m = 3.5), and closer to the dimmer star, about 0.7° to its lower right. Use a binocular to see the dim star with the very bright moon. The moon is 2.3° to the upper right of Aldebaran. Look for the moon in the west in the morning and notice how far it moved in its orbital pathway compared to the starry background.
  • November 14: One hour before sunrise, Mars, 11° up in the east-southeast, is 3.9° to the lower left of Spica. Through a binocular notice that Mars, 76 Virginis (76 Vir, m = 5.2), and Spica are nearly in a line. The dimmer star is nearly midway between Mars and Spica. The moon (17.3d, 96%) is in the west again this morning, about 30° up. It is 4.6° to the upper right of Aldebaran. In the evening, about 30 minutes after sunset, Venus is less than 10° to the lower right of Jupiter. At this hour Venus is nearly 7° up in the southwest. Three hours after sunset (about 7:30 p.m. CST), the moon (17.9d, 93%), about 12° up in the east-northeast, is 2.4° to the upper right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau, m = 3.0), the Southern Horn of Taurus. Observe the star with a binocular. Compare the moon’s position in the morning. If you’re up late, the moon passes about 0.5° above the star at 12:30 a.m. CST tomorrow morning.
  • November 15: One hour before sunrise, the moon (18.3d, 91%), about 40° in altitude in the west, is 1.9° above Zeta Tauri. Mars, nearly 12° up in the east-southeast, is 4.3° to the lower left of Spica. Mercury (m = 2.6) is rapidly moving into the morning sky. For the next week it rises, on average, about 7 minutes earlier each morning. This morning it is 10° west of the sun. Rising about 45 minutes before sunrise, Mercury is at the horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise. During the daytime, the sun is in the sky a few minutes longer than 10 hours. Darkness, the time between the end of evening twilight and the beginning of morning twilight, is 10.75 hours long. Thirty minutes after sunset, Venus (m = −3.9) is 7° up in the southwest, about 9° to the lower right of Jupiter. As the sky darkens further, Jupiter, nearly 9° up in the southwest, is about 20° to the lower right of Saturn. The Ringed Wonder is 20° up in the south-southwest. Four hours after sunset (about 8:30 p.m. CST), the moon (19.0d, 87%) is 0.7° to the lower left of Mu Geminorum (μ Gem, m = 2.8). As the moon leaves the early evening sky, this month’s deep sky focus is the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293). With the gems of the autumn sky – in the names of M31, M15, h Persei, and χ Persei – nearing the meridian, it’s easy to overlook the Helix Nebula – a planetary nebula. It is the remnants of an exploded star that pushed off its outer layers when the stellar core generated too much heat. It is in the dimmer starfield of Aquarius, nearly in the middle of a triangle shaped by Fomalhaut, Delta Capricorni, and Delta Aquarii. The target is 1.1° to the right of Upsilon Aquarii (υ Aqr, m = 5.2). The nebula is large, about half the size of the moon. At this hour it is nearly 30° up in the south, but 10° east of the meridian. If all the light from the nebula were collected into a single stellar point, it would shine at 6th In his Celestial Handbook, Robert Burnham describes the nebula’s appearance. “The ‘Helix Nebula’ is usually regarded as the largest and nearest of the planetary nebulae. Despite its large size the nebula is faint and has a low surface brightness. Binoculars will show the object as a large circular hazy spot, and it is not a difficult object for a small telescope if a low power ocular is used. A rich-field instrument with a wide-angle eyepiece is the ideal telescope for objects of this type” (pp. 192-194). The helix shape appears in short exposure photographs. A dim, 13th magnitude star is at the center of the nebula. From my limiting magnitude estimates, you’ll need at least a 5-inch telescope to see it and some averted vision. Of course, the larger the light collector, the easier it is to locate the central star. In Deep Sky Wonders, Walter Scott Houston reports on observing conditions and instruments that various sky watchers used to view the Helix. He summarizes that small apertures and low powers are best to see the nebula. When larger ‘scopes were used, observers needed filters to reduce the sky glow. Additionally, many observers reported only seeing a uniformly round shape, not the helix shape with the dark center seen in photographs. Can you see the dark center of the nebula? What were the observing conditions and the telescope/eyepiece used?

At mid-month, when morning twilight begins (about 5 a.m. CST), Sirius, Orion’s Belt, Aldebaran, and the Pleiades are lined up in the western sky at nearly the same altitude. The bright gibbous moon is above them in Gemini. Procyon and Capella stand at nearly the same altitude as the moon on November 16th. Leo is farther east. Its great Sickle has not yet reached the meridian. The head of Hydra, the Snake, is at the meridian. Six 3rd and 4th magnitude stars outline the snake’s head. They are nearly 60° up about halfway between Procyon and Regulus. The snake wiggles eastward below Crater and Corvus. The tail goes below the horizon ending near Libra. Alphard, the “Solitary One,” is Hydra’s brightest star, over 20° to the lower right of Regulus and nearly 40° up in the south. It is a second magnitude star, the brightest in this part of the sky. Farther eastward along the ecliptic from Leo, Spica is low in the southeast, with Mars nearby. With Spica in the southeast, Arcturus is nearly 20° up in the east. The Big Dipper is high in the northeast with its curved handle guiding us to Arcturus. Cassiopeia is low in the north-northwest. Mars continues as a not-so-bright star, moving slowly in Virgo. Mercury pops into the morning sky as the second half of the month progresses, brightening as the apparition proceeds. Watch it move toward Mars, but there is no conjunction. Mercury has a nice appearance with Zubenelgenubi, but the star is low in the sky. Find a clear horizon and use a binocular to find the star. At the end of evening twilight (about 6 p.m. CST), the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair, and Deneb – stands high in the southwest. Jupiter is low in the southwest with Saturn, in eastern Sagittarius, to Jupiter’s upper left. The Great Square of Pegasus approaches the meridian, high in the south. The square’s pair of western stars point downward to Fomalhaut that is less than one-fourth of the way up in the southern sky. The great Winter Congregation is now making its way into the evening sky, with the Pleiades leading the way from low in the east-northeast. Aldebaran is lower near the horizon. Capella is in the northeast, at about the same altitude as the Pleiades. The “fishhook” of Perseus hangs above Capella with Cassiopeia higher and above Pegasus toward the meridian. The Big Dipper may be hiding behind a neighbor’s house or other nearby building as it is low in the north-northwest. Venus continues to move toward Jupiter with a conjunction occurring in over a week.

  • November 16: One hour before sunrise, Mars, 12° up in the east-southeast, is 4.9° to the lower left of Spica. The moon (19.3d, 85%) is in western Gemini, over 50° up in the west. It is nearly at the intersection of a large “+” symbol. The vertical leg is from Betelgeuse (α Ori, m = 0.4) to Castor (α Gem, m = 1.6); the horizontal leg is from Procyon (α CMi, m = 0.4) to Capella (α Aur, m = 0.1). Venus is 25° east of the sun. Thirty minutes after sunset, it is 7° in altitude in the southwest, nearly 8° to the lower right of Jupiter. Five hours after sunset (about 9:30 p.m. CST), the moon (20.0d, 78%) is nearly 7° to the lower right of Pollux.
  • November 17: One hour before sunrise, the bright moon (20.3d, 76%), 60° up in the southwest, is nearly 6° to the lower left of Pollux.   Mars, over 12° up in the east-southeast, is over 5° to the lower left of Spica. About 30 minutes after sunset, Venus is over 7° to the lower right of Jupiter. Venus is about 7° up in the southwest. At about 10:30 p.m. CST, (6 hours after sunset), the moon (21.0d, 68%), about 13° up in the east-northeast, is 12° below Pollux and 3.4° to the upper right of the Beehive Cluster (M44, NGC 2632). If you’ve not seen the cluster, use the bright moon as a guide to locate it. Return with low powers when the moon is out of this part of the sky. Look at the moon and the cluster in the morning when the moon is closer.
  • November 18: One hour before sunrise, the moon (21.3d, 66%) is 1° above the Beehive Cluster. Farther east, Mars marches eastward in Virgo to the lower left of Spica and the planet is nearly 13° up in the east-southeast. Thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is nearly 6° with Venus to Jupiter’s lower right. Venus is about 8° up in the southwest.
  • November 19: An hour before sunrise (about 5:45 a.m. CST), the moon (22.3d, 55%), 65° up in the south, is about 9° to the upper right of Regulus (α Leo, m = 1.3). At the same time, Mars is nearly 13° up in the east-southeast. Mercury is entering the morning sky. It is higher and brighter each morning. During the next few mornings, use a binocular until you can see this speedy planet without optical assistance. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Mercury (m = 0.7) is nearly 6° up in the east-southeast, about 12° to the lower left of Mars. The moon reaches its Last Quarter phase at 3:11 p.m. CST. Thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is about 5°. Venus is about 8° up in the southwest.
  • November 20: An hour before sunrise, the moon (23.3d, 43%), 60° up in the south-southeast, is nearly 7° to the lower left of Regulus. Mars is farther east at this hour, about 13° up in the east-southeast.   Fifteen minutes later, Mercury (m = 0.4) is nearly 11° to the lower left of Mars. Mercury is about 7° up in the east-southeast. Thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is 3.9°. Venus is over 8° up in the southwest. Through a telescope, Venus is 11.2” across and 91% illuminated.