2013 Every month this year there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above. Click on links to see photographs of the event.
A bright gibbous Moon will hamper the strong Quadrantids meteor shower in the early hours of January 2 and 3. Look for meteors before moonrise in the early evening hours.
If you are up and about on the mornings on the 6th and 7th of January the Waning Moon in eastern sky is seen 8 degrees from planet Saturn. On the 6th the moon is higher than the planet, the next morning the Moon is below Saturn.
On 13th of January the 2 day old crescent Moon in the western sky at sunset can guide you to the planet Mars in the evening twilight sky. Scan directly below the thin crescent Moon to the western horizon to find Mars some 9 degrees away. Luck and persistence is the key to seeing these two tonight.
High in the southern sky the waxing Gibbous moon is 2 degrees from Jupiter on the 21st of this month. They are between the Pleiades star cluster, many see it as a tiny dipper, and the larger Hyades star cluster. A binocular view will show many stars of both star cluster and a few brighter stars near the bright moon.
Before the start of morning twilight on the 3rd of February the planet Saturn is located some 5 degrees above third quarter moon. Look for them while the morning sky is still dark.
A good clear view of the western horizon is the key to seeing the planet Mercury past less than 1 degree by Mars on the 8th of February after sunset. Mercury is climbing up from the horizon and will reach greatest Elongation from the Sun on 16th of this month. Watch for the next 3 days as brighter Mercury pulls away from a dimmer Mars. This may be by far a very difficult pairing to see with little time to find before they set. A very thin crescent Moon is 6 degrees higher in the sky on the 11th of February may help find the two planets in the lower sky and left of the moon.
The first quarter Moon forms a right triangle with Jupiter above it and the Pleiades star cluster to the right of it on the evening of 17th of February. Wide field binoculars may just fit all three into the field of view.
The buzz of a bright naked eye comet will have already started to make the rounds on the Internet, most of it wild hype with some common sense reporting in the background. Have you ever heard of The Great Comet Kohoutek of the year 1973? Well for some of us it’s deja vue all over again. The difference between then and now, the Internet was not around to trump up hope or spread false information, i.e. crap, as facts.
On the 2nd of March is another chance to see the waning gibbous Moon and Saturn in the morning sky. Saturn is 4 degrees above the Moon in the southwest sky before twilight.
This much is certain, in the western sky at sunset, rounding the sun is comet C/2011 L4 PANSTARRS. When this comet was discovered in the year 2011, speculations of its brightness or magnitude, during the time it is close to the sun has been in the order of –1.0 to +1.0. This would be the brightest comet seen in the Northern hemisphere since 1997 Hale-Bopp. Comet Holmes was also visible with the naked eye, but not many people could find it without some assistance.
Early in the month from 3rd to 7th of March the comet will be in the late twilight sky, close to the horizon. Then on the 12th of March the thin crescent moon will be less than 5 degrees to the right of the comet’s nucleus. Unfortunate they will be 13 degrees above the western horizon at sunset. Not until the 24th of March will the comet be 18 degrees above the horizon, and getting dimmer.
Will there be a long bright tail, a blazing bright nucleus surrounded in a larger coma cloud? Well that’s what people would like to see. For this comet it is the first time it will be seen to round the Sun. Many conditions must be met for the comet to be a spectacular sight in the sky. And there are many conditions that are not well known or assumed at this time I am writing this.
This is going to be a great sight, a great disappointment or something between the two.
I do hope this to turn out as another comet I’ve seen and photographed in the morning sky on the 12th of March in the year 1975. Like now Comet West had high expectations to be a good display or another flop. Sun grazing comet West put on a very memorable visual display of a long broad tail and a bright nucleus. Telescopic views of the nucleus show it had split into 4 parts after it close approach to the Sun. The Internet was not around then to spread the word, mostly amateur and professionals witness that great comet in the morning sky. The press did not carry the news of this as they felt misguided by the over hype of Comet Kohoutek in 1973.
The planets Mercury, Venus and Mars are close to the Sun this month and cannot be seen in the twilight sky. Look for the thin Crescent Moon on the western horizon on the 12th of this month. A slight bit low and right of the Moon is Jupiter. By the 22nd the Moon close to full phase is close to Saturn in the southern sky
A close paring of Jupiter, Mercury and Venus at sunset on the 27th of April will take place. It is highly unlikely that they will be visible as they will be within 15 degrees of the Sun extremely low to the western horizon. Better opportunity is coming next month to see Mercury and Venus.
The first event to locate this month is the 3-day-old crescent Moon 6 degrees to the left of the planet Jupiter in the western evening sky on the 12th of May. The Moon helps to locate Jupiter in the low evening sky around sunset.
Make a note where Jupiter is now, it is moving toward the Sun and lower in the sky at sunset each day. As this is happen Venus and Mercury are moving away from the Sun and higher each day. The start of this a celestial dance begin on the 24th of May and into the first days of June. The one problem is they are low on the horizon. So once again to see any of these planets depends on your western horizon and skill at finding planets in early twilight. Then there are always those pesky clouds.
Venus and Mercury remain with 5 degrees of each other on the western twilight sky at sunset. Mercury is the higher of the two as the month begins then by 18th of June Mercury begins its path to the horizon by pass Venus on the way.
Before that happens the thin crescent of a 2-day-old Moon is found 7 degrees left of the two planets on the 10th of June. The Moon could be hard to see now, easier to find a day latter. By the end of the month Mercury is too close to the Sun to be seen. Venus traces out a very low path very close to the horizon the remainder of this month and into July.
Looking low on the eastern horizon on the 6th of July is the planet Mars. Accompanying it is the very thin crescent Moon to the low right of Mars. Not easy but well worth a look. Jupiter emerges from the glare of the Sun, watch each day as Jupiter traces a path towards Mars. On the 22nd of July the two planets are closest and lest than one degree apart.
Mercury joins in on the morning sky show, look for it directly below Jupiter on the 22nd of July shining about as bright as Mars. The lower altitude of Mercury will make it seem dimmer than Mars. Mercury reaches Greatest Western Elongation by the 30th of July. Not one of its better morning appearances. Keep watching the morning sky into August.
In late twilight before sunrise the crescent Moon slides it was below Jupiter and Mars on 3rd of August.
The Perseid Meteor Shower will have favorable dark skies for most of the event. Peak night is the evening of August 11, morning of August 12, 2013. Don’t fall asleep, with luck up to 50 meteors per hour can be seen by one person at the peak. With lots a lot of dead time between meteors. That’s the way it goes. Look in the east for two planets before sunrise. The less than half illuminated Moon will set in the west around 10:30 p.m. giving way to a good showing of dim and bright meteor after midnight.
Look for the Moon and Jupiter side by side high up in the Morning sky on the 31st of August. The Moon has a crescent shape that is easy to see.
Now in view in the evening sky at sunset is the bright planet Venus. It will be set soon after the Sun set as it is not more than 10 degrees above the horizon, so start looking for it before sunset some 40 degrees left of the Sun. The Moon will help on the 8th of September when they will be less than 2 degrees in separation, making a stunning sight in a clear twilight sky. On the next day the Moon come as close as 5 degrees from the ring planet Saturn.
The 28th of September the Moon, now one day past last quarter phase in the morning sky, is six degree to the lower right of Jupiter. Jupiter makes a large triangle with the two bright stars in Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Then on the 30th of September a more crescent shape Moon is 10 degrees from the planet Mars.
The ecliptic is at a low angle to the western horizon, making it difficult to find Mercury but with a little help from a crescent on the 6th of October it could be possible to see Mercury with binoculars only 2 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. You must begin the search early, as both will set one hour after the Sun. Saturn is also close to the Moon some 5 degrees to the upper right of the Moon. Do not confuse them with brilliant Venus some 20 degrees further to the right of the Moon.
This may be difficult but worth the search.
You may have heard of the Lunar Eclipse this month. This Moon will enter the outer most shadow of the Earth, known as the penumbra. This is not the darker inner umbra shadow. If you can see the difference between lighter gray and much lighter gray while starring at the bright moon, then you have better eyes than a werewolf. The Moon will be traveling through the outer most shadow of the Earth and you will be hard press to see any difference in the brightness of the Moon.
In the morning hour of 25th of October a gibbous Moon will be 5 degrees from the planet Jupiter, then make a swing past Mars on the 29th of October when it while look more like crescent shaped moon.
The Greatest Eastern Elongation of Venus on 1st of November finds Venus is low in the sky at sunset, some 16 degrees from the horizon, an hour later only 11 degrees. Should be an easy find as it shines at magnitude –4.4 alone in the southwest sky. Joining Venus on the 5th of November is the crescent Moon found 17 degrees to the right of the planet Venus. Start looking early as they will depart the sky 2 hours after sunset. On the 6th of November the crescent Moon is higher in the winter sky and 7 degrees from Venus.
The big event on 17th of November will be the Greatest Western Elongation of Mercury at magnitude -0.5 before sunrise. The Full Moon will blot out all but the brightest meteor for the Leonid meteor shower this year, unfortunate because it’s a weekend.
Jupiter at –2.6 magnitude is 2 degrees above a Gibbous Moon on the 22nd of November in the early morning hours
The moon 2 days past Third Quarter phase passes 6 degrees below the 1st magnitude planet Mars in the early morning sky on the 27th of November. Closer to the sunrise are Mercury and Saturn, separated by two degrees. I do not expect these to be seen in the late morning twilight.
You might see a very thin Crescent Moon some 16 degrees to the right of bright planet Venus on the evening of December 4th. The next day the Moon will be easy to see some 7 degrees to the upper right of Venus shinning at a -4.7 magnitude.
The Moon continues to move to the east passes 6 degrees below the planet Jupiter. Look for them before midnight on the 17th December.
Finally, in the Morning Sky on the 26th of December the Moon is once again near Mars.