Tag: moon

2019, November 24: A Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

2016, August 27: A Venus-Jupiter conjunction.

Southern hemisphere readers, a chart for the conjunction appears at the bottom of this article.

The Planets on November 22, 2 evenings before the conjunction

November 23, 2019

As Venus emerges from the sun’s glare from its superior conjunction, Jupiter is heading toward its solar conjunction in late November 2019.  Venus passes Jupiter in a second conjunction between the two planets during this appearance of Jupiter that started late in 2018.

Venus is brighter in our sky because it is closer to Earth, so it appears larger in the sky than Jupiter.  Clouds cover this nearby planet and they reflect over 75% of the sunlight that hits them.  Farther Jupiter reflects about 50% of the sunlight that reaches its clouds.  The result is that Venus is about 3 times brighter than Jupiter, the two brightest “stars” in the southwest.

Here’s how to see the event

The passing of these two planets is a slow moving show that occurs over several nights.  First, find a clear horizon in the southwest, free from trees, houses, buildings, and other possible obstructions.

In the charts that follow, several of them are displayed for a time interval after sunset.  Use local sources for the time of your sunset.  The U.S. Naval Observatory has an online calculator that displays a year of sunrises and sunsets.  Enter your state and city into Form A on the website. For readers outside the U.S., enter your longitude and latitude in Form B for your yearly table.  Click here.

Start looking for Venus and Jupiter about 30 minutes after sunset. A binocular may help with the initial identification of the two planets.  After that first observation go outside at about the same time each evening.

While low in the sky, Venus is the brightest object in the southwest.  If you live near a busy airport, the planet’s visual intensity rivals lights on airplanes.  Wait for a minute, you’ll see the airplane move through the region. Venus will seem to hang there.  Jupiter is not as bright, the second brightest starlike point of light to Venus’ upper left.  Each evening until November 24, Venus gets closer to Jupiter.

Begin looking in late October when the moon is near Venus.

2019, October 29: The crescent moon appears near Venus. Jupiter is to the upper left of Venus and the moon.

The moon makes its first appearance with Venus on October 29.   Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon appears to the upper left of Venus, only 4° up in the southwest with bright Jupiter to the upper left of the pair. The moon is 1.8 days old, past its New phase, and 4.4% illuminated.  The moon appears with Jupiter two evenings later (October 31).

2019, November 13: The Venus-Jupiter gap is 10°.

On November 13, thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is over 10°. (Your fist, at arm’s length, is about 10 degrees from the knuckle of your thumb to the knuckle of your pinky finger.)  Venus is 6° up in the southwest.  Look for the planets each clear evening during the next several evenings.

2019, November 19: Look low in the southwest for Venus and Jupiter about 45 minutes after sunset.

In about a week, the gap closes between the planets. On November 19 their separation is about 5°.  About 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is 4° up in the southwest.

The Venus continues to close in on Jupiter. The separations until the conjunction:

  • Nov 20, 3.9°;
  • Nov 21, 2.8°;
  • Nov 22, 2.1°;
  • Nov 23, 1.5°, Venus is to the lower left of Jupiter.  The pair is nearly as close as they are tomorrow evening.
2019, November 24: Venus-Jupiter conjunction!

On  the evening of November 24, Venus and Jupiter appear closest! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter.  The separation has the same distance as three times the moon’s apparent size in the sky.  Not the actual size, but the size the moon appears in the sky. The planets appear close together in the sky, but Venus and Jupiter are over 430 million miles apart, over 4 times the earth’s distance from the sun.

Now watch Venus appear to separate and move away from Jupiter.  The separations after conjunction:

  • Nov 25, 2°, Venus is to the left of Jupiter;
  • Nov 26, 2.8°;
  • Nov 27, 3.7°, Venus is to the upper left of Jupiter;
  • Nov 28, 4.7°

Next Venus moves toward a conjunction with Saturn on December 10.

In the Southern Hemisphere

For our southern hemisphere readers:  The chart above shows the Venus-Jupiter conjunction about 45 minutes after sunset as seen from the latitude of Sydney Australia, looking west-southwest.  Venus and Jupiter are 1.4 degrees apart with Saturn to the upper right. At this time Venus is about 20% of the way from the horizon to overhead.  As with northern hemisphere observers, use local sources for the time of sunset.

Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions, 2021-2024

Conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter are frequent, but approximately a year apart beginning with a difficult-to-see conjunction in 2021.  The following table provides explanation of the upcoming meetings.

Date Separation When Description
February 11, 2021 26’ Morning This pairing is very difficult to see in the eastern sky as the planets rise in bright twilight just 25 minutes before sunrise.
April 30, 2022 29’ Morning The planets rise in the eastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise.  In separation, this rivals the gap of the June 2015 conjunction, although it is lower in the sky.
March 1, 2023 32’ Evening This conjunction rivals the June 2015 pairing, with the planets high in the west after sunset, setting 2 hours, 30 minutes after the sun.
May 23, 2024 15’ Morning This pairing is impossible for casual observers to see as it occurs when the planets are nearly behind the sun hidden in the solar glare.

2019, July 9: Saturn at Opposition

On July 9, Saturn is at opposition, nearly a month after Jupiter was in the opposite direction in the sky from the sun.

Saturn is near opposition for several nights before and after reaching this point opposite the sun.  To locate the planet step outside after the sky darkens.  The chart above shows the sky about 90 minutes after sunset; check your sources for the time of sunset at your location. (For example, in Chicago, Illinois, the time for the above chart is 10 p.m. CDT.  Near Omaha, Nebraska, 90 minutes after sunset is 10:30 p.m. CDT.)

Jupiter is the bright “star” that is almost south, but less than one-third of the way up in the sky.  Golden-orange Antares is to the lower right of Jupiter.  Saturn is farther left of Jupiter in the southeast, lower in the sky than Jupiter.  Saturn is among the stars of Sagittarius, brighter than those surrounding stars, but not as bright as Jupiter.  For perspective, the moon is outside the chart.  The gibbous moon is in the southwest, above the bluish star Spica.  On July 15, the nearly full moon is to the right of Saturn.

Through a telescope, the planet’s rings are revealed.  If you’re careful, you might see its a few of its moons, depending on the diameter of the lens or the mirror and the magnification that is used.  The large gap in the rings, Cassini’s Division, might be seen as well.

Viewing Saturn through a telescope is one of life’s memorable experiences.  If you view this spectacular ringed wonder through a telescope, you will certainly remember.  A child will remember this experience.

Opposition occurs when Earth passes between a planet farther from the sun than Earth (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and the sun.  The planet rises at sunset, appears in the south around midnight, and sets in the west.  When at opposition, the outer planets are closest to Earth, at their brightest points in the sky, and provide the best telescopic views.

Saturn appears at opposition again on July 20, 2020, when it reaches that point just six days after Jupiter’s opposition.  Jupiter passes Saturn in December 2020 for a Great Conjunction that occurs about every 20 years.

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.

2019, May 19-21: Moon Passes Jupiter

As Jupiter approaches opposition, the event when our planet Earth is between Jupiter and the sun.  Jupiter and the sun are in opposite sides of the sky.  Jupiter rises when the sun sets and Jupiter sets when the sun rises.  Jupiter is in the south at midnight, when the sun is in the south at noon.

A few weeks before opposition, Jupiter appears in the evening and the morning sky.  Here’s what’s to see depending on when you step outside to see it.

Evening

  • May 19: At 10:30 p.m. CDT, the moon, 15.2 days past its New phase and 98% illuminated, is nearly 7° to the upper right of Jupiter and almost 9° to the left of Antares in the southeastern sky.

  • May 20: At 11 p.m. CDT, the moon, 16.2 days old and 94% illuminated, is nearly 7° up in the southeast and 6.5° to the lower left of Jupiter.

Morning

By morning , the moon appears in the southwest.

  • May 20:  At the beginning of morning twilight (about 4 a.m. CDT), the moon, 15.4 days old and 98% illuminated, is 4.6° to the right of Jupiter.  The Giant planet is 24° up in the south-southwest.

  • May 21:  At the beginning of morning twilight, the moon, 16.5 days old and 93% illuminated, is 25° up in the south and 8.2° to the left of Jupiter.

 

2019, May 17: Moon in Clasp of the Pincers

On Friday evening (May 17), look toward the southeast for a nearly full moon.  The moon appears between Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali, the northern claw and the southern claw, respectively.  The stars are not overly bright, and the moon’s size is exaggerated in the image above.

Today the stars are the two brightest in Libra, the Scales.  This constellation is the only inanimate object in the zodiac, the constellations that the sun, moon, and planets appear to move through.

The two stars were once part of Scorpius, the Scorpion, that is now rising in the southeast below the moon.  The scorpion was divided into two constellations, but the two stars retained their original names.

So if you imagine that the scorpion is largely below the southeast horizon with its pincers up in the sky holding the moon on this evening.

2019, May 15-16: Moon Passes Spica

Step outside as the sky darkens on Wed (May 15) and Thurs (May 26).  The moon appears to pass the bluish star Spica on the two evenings.  Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

On May 15, the moon, 11.1 days past its New phase and 90% illuminated, appears 8° above Spica.

On the next evening, the moon, one day older and 92% illuminated, is over 11° to the left of Spica.

Across these two evenings you can see the moon’s eastward movement compared to the starry background.

We notice several changes in the moon:

  • Phase:  The illuminated portion of the moon changes slightly each night, dramatically across a week.
  • Daily Rising and Setting:  On a warm spring evening, notice the moon’s position, relative to nearby trees and houses, for an hour.  You see it get farther west during that time.  Like the sun, it rises in the eastern sky, sometimes southeast and sometimes northeast, and sets later somewhere in the west that mirrors its rising spot.
  • Daily eastward orbital motion:  Each day, the moon moves slightly to the east.  In about 27 days appears near Spica again, but its phase is not quite the same as on these two nights.

2019: May 11-13: Moon and Leo in Evening Sky

Leo, the Lion, stands high in the southwest as the sky darkens in early to mid-May.  The shape is fairly easy to locate.  Six stars resemble a backwards question mark, also known as “The Sickle” for the farm implement.  A triangle trails farther east.  Regulus is the bottom star of the question mark and represents the lion’s heart.  Denebola marks the lion’s tail.  The celestial lion is majestically facing westward as we view its profile.  The moon moves through the region May 11-13, 2019.  Here’s what to look for:

  • May 11: The moon reaches its First Quarter phase at 8:12 p.m. CDT. One hour after sunset, the moon, 7.1 days past its New Phase and 50% illuminated, is high in the southwest, 8.9° to the right of Regulus.

The angular degree measurement is used in astronomy to determine the separations and sizes of objects.  Because objects have various actual sizes and distances from Earth, the degree is the way for us to communicate apparent sizes and apparent separations.  The full moon has an apparent diameter of about 1/2°.  The charts we use typically exaggerate the size of the moon, so the chart cannot be used for a scale with the moon.  The distance from Regulus to Denebola is about 24°.

  • May 12: One hour after sunset, the moon (8.1d, 62%) is 6.2° to the upper left of Regulus.
  • May 13: The moon is closest to Earth at 4:53 p.m. CDT. An hour after sunset, the moon (9.1d, 73%), nearly 60° up in the south, is 8.5° to the lower right of Denebola– the tail of Leo.