If you’re up for a weekend challenge, grab your binoculars, find a clear view down to the eastern horizon, and head out about 30 minutes before sunrise to spot fingernail-thin crescent Moon right next to the planet Mercury in the pre-dawn sky. A pair of binoculars will help you pull an image of the pair out of the brightening sky. Westward (above) this pair you will also see the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Venus in the constellation Leo. The event favors observers in the northern hemisphere, but it is also visible in the south, although the sky will be slightly brighter when Mercury emerges above the horizon.Share This:
Set your alarm to wake early on October 8, 2015 to see three bright planets, a bright star, and a waning crescent Moon stacked up along the ecliptic in the eastern sky before sunrise. Over the next few weeks, the planets will bob and weave among the stars of the constellation Leo. As the early mornings turn colder in the northern hemisphere and warmer in the south, the planets will slowly converge. First, Mars and Jupiter will approach within a degree of each other on October 17-18, then Venus will join the two on October 26-27. Find a view of the eastern sky and see the solar system in action before the sun rises. It’s a good way to start the day.Share This:
The planet Venus has returned to the sky at a “morning star”, shining brightly in the eastern sky before sunrise in the constellation Cancer, the Crab. Venus is by far the brightest object in the sky except for the Sun and Moon. It shines at magnitude -4.5, nearly as bright as it gets, and spans about 44″ when seen in a telescope. The face of the planet is a magnificent slender crescent shape just 18% illuminated by the Sun.
Venus is joined by Jupiter, which rises a little later and shines a little fainter. The two planets made a dramatic display in the evening sky earlier in 2015 and will now dominate the morning sky for the rest of the year. Too low in the sky to reveal much detail, Jupiter is still worth a look in binoculars or a small telescope, if just to see its fat disk and its four biggest moons make their way around the big planet. The planet now appears about 31″ across, much smaller than Venus, but fully illuminated.
Between the two bright planets, you also see the ochre glow of Mars, still relatively faint at magnitude +1.8 and just 3.8″ across. It’s far too small and distant to reveal any detail in a telescope. The planet will slowly brighten over the next 8 months on the way to opposition in May 2016. Just below Mars, closer to Jupiter, you see the icy white star Regulus in the constellation Leo, shining slightly brighter at magnitude +1.4.Share This:
The bright planets Venus and Jupiter have been moving closer together for weeks, and on June 30, 2015, they make their closest approach when they pass less than a full-Moon-width from each other in the western sky after sunset. This beautiful conjunction of two bright planets is an ideal time for a photo-op and an great opportunity to see the clockwork motion of the solar system in action.
The two planets will fit together in the same low-power field of view in a telescope, and remarkably, they will appear the same size. Venus is a tiny crescent, bright and featureless, while Jupiter displays cloud bands and its four biggest moons. While each spans about 32 arc-seconds in apparent size, in real terms Jupiter is 12x larger and 12x farther away. If the skies are in your favor, wander out and see this remarkable conjunction in the western sky after sunset on June 30 and July 1. It’s visible from the northern and southern hemispheres.Share This:
Venus and Jupiter continue to move together each night on the way to their closest encounter on June 30, 2015. This weekend the two planets are still 6º apart, but stargazers may get their best photo opportunity during this conjunction as the two planets are joined by a slender crescent Moon in the western sky after sunset on June 19-20. Venus and Jupiter form a straight line with the bright white star Regulus in the constellation Leo to the east, while Castor and Pollux in Gemini linger to the west. In a telescope, brilliant Venus now appears as a thick crescent while Jupiter, which appears smaller and fainter, still shows its cloud bands and four bright moons.
And on June 21, 2015 at 16:39 UT, the Sun appears to stand still at its most northerly point in the sky. This marks the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of northern summer. At the same time, winter begins in the southern hemisphere as the days begin to grow longer and the world slowly moves from darkness to light.
(Image at top captured from SkySafari 4 Plus)Share This: