Almanac

Every month this year there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above.  Click on links to see photographs of the event.

December 2014

Rising in the east late in the evening on the 11th of December Jupiter and the waning gibbous Moon are separated by 5 degrees of sky.

Saturday evening Novemeber 13 the Geminid meteor shower will climb to maximun ZHR on Sunday morning. Rated at ZHR 120 meteors per hour, this is one of the better annual metwor showers. If only the weather were warmer during this event. The last quarter Moon rise in the east around 11:30 am putting a damper on the number that can be seen.

Saturn is close to the waning crescent Moon an hour before sunrise on the 19th of December.

The waxing crescent Moon makes another pass of Mars on 23rd of December is the western sky. Mars is 6 degrees left of the Moon.

January 2015

With the Moon 2 days shy of Full Moon phase  only the brightest meteors of the annual Quadrantids can be seen. These medium speed meteors from parent object asteroid 2003 EH produce many fireballs, usually without lasting trains. To watch the  Quadrantids this year one needs persistence and good weather. Should reach peak performance in early evening of January 3th, 2015.  Is it too cold to be outside on a clear night? You can see what you missed by looking at Keystone College Thomas G Cupillari  AllSky Camera online at web site  http://skysentinel.nmsu.edu/allsky/node/node64 .

Rising in the east 2 day later on January 7th is the bright planet Jupiter around 5 degress to the left of the Gibbous moon. Look for them around 9:00 pm.

The Moon and bright planet Venus will be your guide to finding Mercury in the west after sunset. Start to look to the western sky early on the January 12th to locate Venus. Mercury will be moving up from the horizon for the remainder of the week before leving the sky early next week. Not a great apparition but with luck and a clear horizon you may catch sight of Mercury.

Look to the eastern horizon between 4 am and 5 am on the morning of January 16th for a cresent Moon and the planet Saturn just over 1 degree below the Moon. Better before twilight begins to drown out Saturn in the sky.

The best opportunity to find Mercury is after sunset on January 21st, then a sliver of a crescent Moon will be 4 degrees above Mercury and 6 degrees right of Venus. A difficult sight but it is possible to seen the Moon from a triangle with the two planets. Get a early start to find Mercury.

Viewing is easier on January 22nd, the Moon still a thin crescent 12 degrees above a -4 magnitude Venus hugging close to the horizon. To the upper left at some 4 degrees from Moon is Mars shinning at 1st magnitude. Unseen to the eye is the 8th magnitude planet Neptune some 2 degrees lower right of Mars and 3 degrees left of the Moon. Not a chance to see this planet in twilight skies

February 2015

The Full moon rising on February 3 will have the company of a -2.6 magnitude planet Jupiter, a better sight before the end of twilight, but with a Full Moon still good after twilight.

The planets Venus and Mars will perform a celestial  dance in the western sky after sunset this month. Venus at -4 magnitude  is rising up to meet 1st magnitude Mars.They begin to close in on each other during the middle of the month. They are higher in the sky at sunset, lower an closer to the horizon one hour after sunset. Begin to watch this event unfold by starting to watch the western sky after sunset on February 8th, 2015 when bright planet Venus is 6 degrees below Mars. Venus will move close to Mars each night. By the end of the week on February 14th, Venus will cut the apparent separation between them to 3 degrees.

Set a reminder on your calendar for February 20th for a grand view of Venus and Mars just 3/4 of a degree apart, with a thin crescent moon a little less than 2 degrees to their right. The next 2 night Venus and Mars are separated buy 1/2 of a degree of sky between them, that is the apparent size of our Moon in the sky. They start moving apart with Venus now higher in the sky than Mars. They are separated by 3 degrees on the evening of February 28th.

While the sight Venus and Mars puts on a good show in the western sky, another will be oculted by the Moon on the evening of February 21. A telescope will be required to see outer planet Uranus pass behind the dark leading edge of the crescent Moon.

Start looking around 5:00 pm, to find the Moon and locate the 6th magnitude planet Uranus.

EST

2015 Feb 21 5:50 pm  Moon occults Uranus, First Contact *

2015 Feb 21 5:50 pm  Moon occults Uranus, Second Contact

2015 Feb 21 6:21 pm  Moon occults Uranus, Mid-occultation

2015 Feb 21 6:51 pm Moon occults Uranus, Third Contact *

2015 Feb 21 6:51 pm Moon occults Uranus, Last Contact

Early riser should see a fat gibbous Moon in the east on February 13th at 4:00am. Some 5 degrees to the right is the planet Saturn shining at magnitude 0.5.  Four days later on the morning of February 17th, the thin crescent moon is 5 degrees left of the 0.0 magnitude planet Mercury. Be quick to see these two before sunrise.

March 2015

The very fat gibbous Moon will move past the planet Jupiter on the evening of March 2nd. Look to the south to find the Moon 6 degrees below the planet Jupiter. As the Moon continues in it path across the sky it will encounter Saturn in the morning sky on March 12th at 3:00 am at which time it will show a gibbous phase with Saturn 1 1/2 degrees to it’s lower right.

Use Venus as your guide on March 21st  to point the way to a thin crescent Moon with Mars less than 2 degrees to the upper right of the Moon. They will be close to the horizon one hour after sunset, and the planet Venus 13 degrees directly above them. The following night, March 22nd, the crescent Moon and Venus will be side by side separated by 3 degrees.

The Moon will past underneath the planet Jupiter on March 29th. Look for them in the south around 9:30 pm, Jupiter a little over  6 degrees to the upper left of the fat gibbous moon.

April 2015

Have you heard about the Lunar Eclipse on April 4, 2015?  If you are anticipating the arrival of this sky show, then here is a reality check to plan by.  First the eclipse is a Partial, meaning only a part of the Moon will enter the shadow of the Earth, not the entire Moon. THIS IS NOT A TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE.

Examine the timetable of events. The Moon will start First Contact, start to enter the darker inner part of the shadow at 6:06 AM; morning twilight start an hour previous so the sky will be daylight blue. The Sun will rise in 46 minutes, and the Moon will set 4 minutes later. Less than half of the Moon will be in the umbra shadow by the time the Moonset.  All times are based upon a perfect sphere, i.e. no obstruction to the horizons by a uneven terrain, such as mountains and valleys locations.

Based upon my own view and photographs of Total Lunar Eclipse during a Sunrise and Moonset, the best one can expect to see of this Partial Lunar Eclipse will be a small darker shading of the left side of the Moon. All of this depends on the atmospheric sky condition at the time. Clouds, fog, humidity all affect the transparency of the sky at twilight.

DST

2015 Apr  4 05:00  Lunar Eclipse, Enter Penumbra,  Alt=18°

2015 Apr  4 05:14  Twilight begins

2015 Apr  4 05:35  Lunar Eclipse, Penumbra First Visible, Alt=12°

2015 Apr  4 06:16  Lunar Eclipse, First Contact, Alt=5°

2015 Apr  4 06:50  Sunrise

2015 Apr  4 06:54  Moon Sets

2015 Apr  4 07:57  Lunar Eclipse, Third Contact, Sep=+00°24’17″, Alt=-14°

2015 Apr  4 08:00  Lunar Eclipse, Mid-eclipse, Sep=+00°24’13″, Alt=-15°

The morning event of April 8th, 2015 to see between the hours of 3 am and 4 am involves the gibbous Moon close to the planet Saturn. The planet Saturn will be 3 degrees to the lower left of the Moon.

Turn now to the evening sky at sunset on April 19th. High in the western sky, shinning at -4.1 magnitude is the planet Venus, This is you guide to find the thin crescent Moon nearly directly below Venus and close to the horizon. Four degrees to the right of the Moon is 1.5 magnitude Mars. Four degrees to the lower right of Mars is Mercury at -1.5 magnitude. They set around 8:30 pm so you must allow time to find them. Venus will be visible to the eye before sunset.

Mars is moving toward the horizon while Mercury is rise up higher each day. They will pass close to each on April 21st, and April 22nd. Mercury will be less than 2 degress left of Mars on both days. If you observe from the same location, recall where the Moon was in reference to object on your local horizon on April 19, i.e. trees, towers or  mountain features. On April 21st, the Moon is 7 degrees left of Venus.

One day past First Quarter phase on April 26, the Moon is left of the -2.2 magnitude planet Jupiter in the WSW sky.

May 2015

The sky is not dark now until after 10:00 pm. Look for the rising Moon in the in southeast. At 3 days past Full Moon on May 5th it still brighten the sky. Seven degrees to the upper right shins the planet Saturn.

The inner planet Mercury climbs to it furthest distance in our sky from the Sun on May 7. Venus is 21 degrees higher in the sky. Scan with binoculars toward the region of the setting Sun to locate 0.5 magnitude Mercury.

After sunset on May 21st look for a crescent Moon 8 degrees left of the planet Venus.

Saturn is at opposition on May 22nd. A telescope view shows the north pole of Saturn tilting 25 degrees towards the Earth. The rings are close to full on view now, showing this aspect for a few more years before the apparent tilt begins to close up.

One day before the First Quarter moon on May 24th, the planet Jupiter is 12 degrees left of the moon.

Before the end of the month the planets Mercury and Mars have disappeared into the glare of the Sun.

June 2015

On June 1st the Full Moon is rising in the east with the planet Saturn 4 degrees to it’s right.

Venus has been in western the sky for few months now, approaching great brilliance after climbing it’s greatest distance in the sky from the Sun on June 6th. It is possible to find the planet Venus with the unaided eye during the early afternoon on days with clear transparent skies. It takes time, patience and some planning to do so, or by chance looking at the right place in the sky.

Soon Jupiter will be in the same area of the sky as Venus. Start watching the western sky after sunset to see the the daily movement of Jupiter toward Venus. On June 29th the crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter will make a nice triangle configuration. The moon is on the left, Venus on the right and Jupiter the tip of the triangle.

On the evening of June 28th the Moon and Saturn will make one of their closest approach of the year. Look for the gibbous Moon after 10 pm in the Southern sky. With the use of a small telescope or steady had held binoculars, the 4th magnitude star Theta Librae will slip behind the dark limb of the Moon some time close to 11:00 pm.

July 2015

Venus and Jupiter continue their dance on the western horizon in the first week of this month. Venus shines at a brilliant -4.3 magnitude; Jupiter is dimmer and bright at -1.8 magnitude. They are separated by the width of the Moon at sunset on July 1st, pulling away from each other on July 2nd. Venus and Jupiter are moving downward to the horizon each night, Jupiter moving into the glare of the Sun. They will exit the western sky by the end of the month.

In the morning sky planets Mercury and Mars are heading for a close pass in the sky, with the very thin crescent Moon lower and left by 6 degrees from the two planets. It will be nearly impossible to see this event, as all are only 8 degrees from the Sun. The glare of the Sun, low altitude and sunrise all play a part to preventing viewing this event on July 15th morning.

The evening of July 18th will be the last opportunity to see the crescent Moon 1 degree below Venus and the planet Jupiter 6 degrees right of Venus.

A gibbous Moon is 4.5 degees right of the planet Saturn in the SSW sky on the evening of July 25th.

August 2015

This is a good year to watch the annual Persied meteor shower; the peak occurs on the evening of August 11th, morning of August 12th. During the peak hour up to 50 of the swift meteors night can be seen diligent observers. Moonlight will not be a problem this year as the Moon will be a very thin crescent rising in the morning twilight on August 12th. If you have not given up looking for meteors use the Moon to locate the 1.7 magnitude planet Mars some 9.5 degrees to the lower right of the Moon. Watch out for the rising Sun if using binoculars!

Planet Mercury makes a poor showing in the west this month with the best chance to locate it is on the evening of August 16. Using binoculars, start out early before sunset to locate the crescent Moon some 25 degrees to the left of the setting Sun. By sunset the Moon will only be 5 degrees above the western horizon. Just 5 degrees right of the Moon is -0.2 magnitude Mercury in bright twilight skies.  This will not be easy; a hazy sky or cloudy horizon lowers the chance to see either.

The Moon reaches 1st Quarter phase on the night of August 22nd, and is 3.5 degrees lower right is 0.5 magnitude planet Saturn.

September 2015

At the start of the month, Venus is high enough away from the horizon in the late morning twilight sky and shines at a brilliant -4.4 magnitude. Venus is some 8 degrees left of the planet Mars on the morning of September 2nd and will continue to glide up higher in the sky with each passing day. A crescent Moon is between Venus and Mars on the morning of September 10, should be a nice sight to see.

Look for the fat crescent Moon on the evening of September 18th some 2 degrees right of Saturn.

This Big Event this month is the Total Lunar Eclipse on the evening September 27th. Unlike the last one in April, the entire eclipse from start to finish will be visible in our region. The center of the Moon will pass below the center of the shadow of the Earth. The top of the Moon will be closer to the center of the shadow of the Earth; the bottom of the Moon will be close to the edge of the shadow of the Earth.  To see a diagram of this visit this web site.   http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEdecade/LEdecade2011.html

EDT

2015 Sep 27 08:10 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Enter Penumbra,  Alt=15°

2015 Sep 27 08:39 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Penumbra First Visible,  Alt=20°

2015 Sep 27 09:07 pm    Lunar Eclipse, First Contact, Alt=25°

2015 Sep 27 10:10 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Second Contact, Alt=35°

2015 Sep 27 10:48 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Mid-eclipse,  Alt=40°

2015 Sep 27 11:24 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Third Contact, Alt=45°

2015 Sep 28 12:28 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Last Contact, Alt=49°

2015 Sep 28 12:55 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Penumbra Last Visible, Alt=50°

2015 Sep 28 01:24 pm    Lunar Eclipse, Exit Penumbra, Alt=50°

In the morning 3 bright planets are gathering for a parade in October skies.

October 2015

In pre dawn skies this October the brightest planets will come close together to each other, with the Moon joining in the mix. Venus (-4.5 mag.), Mars (1.8 mag.) and Jupiter (-1.8 mag.) are strung out in a line at the start of the month. The 1.3 magnitude star Regulus will also be part of this configuration, standing between Venus and Mars from October 1st to October 6th.

Venus is higher at the start of the month reaching Greatest Western Elongation on October 26th.  Before then a thin gibbous Moon is 3 degrees is above Venus with the star Regulus left of Venus forming a triangle of a star, a planet and a moon on October 8th.

The Moon is part of another triangle with Mars and Jupiter on October 9. Trace the path of the Moon to the horizon and you may see the planet Mercury low on the eastern horizon as a 0.3 magnitude star. On October 11 the Moon will be 1.2 degrees lower right of Mercury, a good chance to make a positively identify the planet Mercury.  In four days Mercury will be Greatest Western Elongation from the Sun, the highest it will reach away from the Sun.

You can find the thin crescent Moon at sunset on October 15 some 8 degrees right of 0.6 magnitude Saturn. Look early as they are low on the horizon and set early.

Back to the morning parade, Jupiter climbs higher each night as Mars descends to the eastern horizon. Watch these two planets as Mars glides past Jupiter from October 15th – 20th They will be separated by 23 minutes of arc on October 17th. That’s less that the width of the Moon.  Keep an eye on Venus on those mornings as it nears 1 degrees left of Jupiter on October 25th, Mars completes the triangle at a little over 3 degrees below Venus and Jupiter.

The Moon will interfere with the Orionid meteor shower in the early evening hours on October 21st; the Moon setting around midnight. Watch for Orionids meteors while out watching the parade of planets in the morning sky.

November 2015

The morning parade of planets and Moon conjunctions continues for another two weeks. Starting with Venus passing close to the right of Mars from November 1st – 3rd They are closest to each other on October 3rd, a little less than 45 minutes of arc between them. Our Moon joins in the parade, pass a little less than 4 degrees right of the -1.9 magnitude planet Jupiter on November 6th.

The next morning, November 7th, the crescent Moon is 2 degrees right of Venus and 3 degrees below Mars, and tight triangle in the sky. With binoculars you might be able to see the 4th magnitude star Beta Virginis, Zavijava, between the Moon and Mars.

For the rest of the month Jupiter, Mars and Venus continue to separate from each other, stringing out in a near straight line on the ecliptic plane.

December 2015

Once more the Moon will pass by Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the morning sky. Beginning of December 1st the Moon is 4 degrees lower left of -2.0 magnitude Jupiter in the southern skies at sunrise. On December 5th the Moon is  6 degrees right of Mars, the next morning December 6th it is between Mars (1.5 mag) and Venus (-4.2 mag), closer to Mars than Venus.

A daylight event that is worth a mention will occur on Monday afternoon Dec 7th at 12:38 p.m. At that time the Moon will pass in front of the planet Venus. The illuminated side of the crescent Moon, 13% illumination, will occult the planet Venus (-4.2 mag., 70% illuminated). Search for the Moon in the WSW sky some 30 to 20 degrees above the horizon before the start of the event. Factors against viewing this event: it’s December, it may be cold, they are low on the horizon, and it’s daylight. Binoculars and a telescope are required to view this event.