2018, March 21: #Venus, Mercury and Moon, The Early Show, #Mercury Slips Into Bright Twilight

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Click through this short slide show to see Venus, Mercury and the Moon this evening.

Brilliant Venus shines from the western sky this evening.  Now setting nearly 90 minutes after sunset, this evening planet appears higher each evening at the same time.

Dimmer Mercury is 4.5 degrees to the right of Venus.  Binoculars help finding its location.  It is rapidly diving into bright twilight and fading in brightness.  On April 1, it passes between Earth and Sun, and moves into the morning sky,

The 4.5-day old crescent moon appears 38 degrees above Venus this evening.  Watch it appear higher in the sky, more distant from Venus, and with a growing phase as it continues through its celestial path.

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


2018, March 18: Venus and Mercury, The Early Show, The Moon Joins the Party

A thin crescent moon, nearly 1.5 days old, joins brilliant Venus and Mercury this evening. Mercury is partly hidden by the clouds.

Venus is entering the sky after its superior conjunction. Mercury is a few days past its greatest separation from the sun and heading toward its solar inferior conjunction in early April.

Tomorrow evening Mercury is lower in the sky and the waxing crescent moon is about 13 degrees to the upper left of Venus.

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

2018, March 14: Venus and Mercury, The Early Show in West

This evening brilliant Venus and Mercury continue their planetary display in the western sky,  Mercury reaches its greatest separation (elongation) from the sun tomorrow evening.  Both planets are emerging from their solar superior conjunctions.  After it reaches its greatest elongation, Mercury quickly returns to the sun’s glare and moves into the morning sky.

Venus is in the sky until October.

On March 18, Mercury passes Venus again as the waxing crescent moon joins the planetary pair in the western sky.

This evening Mercury is 4 degrees to the upper right of Venus.

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

2018, March 9: Moon Joins the Morning Planet Parade

The last quarter moon (overexposed in the image) joins the morning planet parade this morning.  The moon is 7 degrees from Mars which is marching eastward toward Saturn, 12.6 degrees to the left of Mars.  Mars passes this ringed wonder April 2.

Bright Jupiter is farther west near the two bright stars in Libra (Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali).  Yesterday, Jupiter stopped moving eastward compared  to the starry background.  This morning, it is 7.9 degrees from Zubenelgenubi.  Watch Jupiter move westward  and close the gap during the next few months.  It passes the star in early June.

While overexposed in the top image. The moon takes some clarity in this image.

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

2018, February 12: Jupiter, Mars & Saturn

After several days of cloudy, snowy weather, three planets and the moon shine in the early morning sky.

Bright Jupiter is in the south, 7 degrees from the star Zubenelgenubi.  Jupiter passes the star again in June as it retrogrades.

Mars, 17.9 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter, appears above the star Antares (The Rival of Mars).  The star is so named because its brightness and color are similar to the planet.  Mars is 5.1 degrees above Antares this morning.  Mars passed closest to Antares on February 10.

Watch Mars approach and pass Saturn.  They are closest on April 2.

Saturn is low in the southeastern sky, nearly 44 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter.

The waning crescent moon (26.5 days old) appears to the lower left of Saturn, outside of the frame of the image at the top.  New moon is February 15.

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

NASA JPL News: Teachable Moment: Watching This Month’s Total Lunar Eclipse

Animation showing a total lunar eclipse. Credit: NASA Goddard Media Studios



A full moon is always a good reason to go outside and turn your head toward the sky, but those who do so early on January 31 will be treated to the sight of a total lunar eclipse.  It’s the only total lunar eclipse visible from North America in 2018, so it’s a great opportunity for students to observe the Moon – and for teachers to make connections to in-class science content.

In the latest Teachable Moment from NASA/JPL Edu, education specialist Lyle Tavernier explains what causes a total lunar eclipse, what it tells us about Earth and how to see one in action on January 31. Teachers and parents can also explore a collection of lessons and activities to get students curious and excited about the Moon.

Read the article here.


2018, January 31: Chicago’s View of the Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse (image Credit: NASA)

A lunar eclipse occurs on the morning of January 31 during the second full moon of the month and the new year.  All the events of the lunar eclipse are visible from Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean Basin and western North America.

In the Chicago area, the moon sets in the western sky during the maximum phase.

Here are the events of the eclipse for Chicago area observers:

January 31, 4:51 a.m. CST — The moon is low in the western sky (altitude 23 degrees), just about two hours before it sets.  At this time, the moon enters the outer section of the lunar shadow — the penumbra.  For most observers not much change occurs in the moon’s brightness.

5:28 a.m. CST (Moon’s altitude, 16 degrees) — The moon appears lower in the western sky as the earth is rotating.  Morning twilight begins at this time.

5:48 a.m. CST (Moon’s altitude, 12 degrees) — The moon’s descent toward the horizon continues.  At this time the moon begins to move into the darker umbra and the partial eclipse begins.

6:01 a.m. CST (Moon’s altitude, 10 degrees) — The partial eclipse continues and the sky brightens.  Nautical twilight occurs at this time.  The sky is bright enough to distinguish the horizon — the line the separates the sky from the ground.

6:35 a.m. CST (Moon’s altitude, 4 degrees) — The moon’s descent continues as it is now only about 30 minutes before moonset.  Sometimes the moon and sun seem orange when they rise,  This is from the atmosphere erasing the yellow and blue light from  sunlight — atmospheric extinction. (This can also diminish the brightness of celestial objects.)  The moon appears orange during a lunar eclipse when red and orange light are bent through our atmosphere  While the moon is not in total eclipse, yet, the moon appears orange from the eclipse as well as the atmospheric extinction.  At this time Civil Twilight occurs; the sky is bright.  Street lights begin turning off.  It’s easy to distinguish details in terrestrial features.

6:51 a.m. CST (Moon’s altitude, 2 degrees) — The moon is very low in the western sky.  The moon is now completely inside the earth’s shadow — total eclipse.

7:04 a.m. CST — Sunrise

7:06 a.m. CST — Moonset

While all the stages of the eclipse are not visible from the Chicago area, the events leading up to the total eclipse are easily visible.

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