Almanac

2014 Every month this year there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above.  Click on links to see photographs of the event.

January 2014

The first two weeks of this month what remains of comet ISON is found in the above the North Star Polaris making it’s way to the North East toward the bright star Capella, after darkness falls. The Moon should not be too much of an interference this, but the better time to look at this would be in the early morning hours before sunrise.

While out looking for comet ISON, keep an eye for Quandrantids meteors, than peak on the 3rd of January. The radiant point is above the star Nekkar or Beta Bootis. Rate is normally 60 to 120 per hour.

The nearly Full Moon rises with the bright planet Jupiter 5 degrees to its left on the evening of January 14.
Jupiter is at opposition the next day, situation within the center of the stars that outline the pattern the constellation of Gemini. At 11 degree from Jupiter the bright stars Castor and Pollux complete a triangle pattern with Jupiter. At -2.6 magnitude it outshines all of the bright stars in the winter sky.

A similar scene of our Moon and the red planet Mars can be seen in the morning sky on Jan 23 at 1:00 am. The moon’s phase is now closer to 3rd Quarter. Two days later on the morning of Jan 25 the planet Saturn is to the lower left of the Moon separated by less than 2 degrees of sky.

Before sunrise on Jan 28 a thin crescent moon rise and is followed closely by brilliant planet Venus rising also less than 10 degrees to the moon’s left. You should be able to see this two into late twilight.

February 2014

After sunset on the 1st of February look for the thin crescent Moon 20 degrees above where the had sunset. Once you have the moon in your sights then drop your gaze directly down to the horizon to locate the bright, -0.4 magnitude planet Mercury.

If you look out to the south on February 10th a fat gibbous Moon is less than 10 degrees below the brightly shinning planet Jupiter. The rest of the month the Moon will slide below the planets Mars, Saturn and Venus in the morning sky.

As dawn approaches on the morning of the 19th of Feb Mars, shining at -0.2 is close to 7 degrees to the upper left of a gibbous Moon. The Moon, looking close to 3rd Quarter phase, makes a close pass to 0.5 magnitude Saturn on the morning of Feb 21st. The thin crescent Moon is less than 4 degrees to the lower left of -4.6 magnitude Venus in the late twilight morning sky on February 26th.

If you can find the thin crescent Moon low on the morning horizon on the 27th of February, the 1.1 magnitude planet Mercury is much lower on the horizon some 6 degrees to the lower left of the Moon.

March 2014

March 9, 2014 Daylight Savings Time begins.

A gibbous moon will pass an average of 8 degrees below the planet Jupiter on evenings of March 10 and March 11. It will then approach the planet Mars, which has brighten in the night sky as it returns to opposition in April. Mars will rise up first on March 18 follow closely by the Moon that is 2 day past full phase. The planet Mars is now -1.0 magnitude but still a small size of 14 arc second as seen in a telescopic view.

Saturn will get a close visit by a gibbous Moon rising in the east around 1:00 am on March 21st.

About 3 degrees of sky will separate the waning crescent Moon and the planet Venus. Venus will remain in the morning sky for most of the year, not departing until October 4, 2014. First sighting of Venus again in the evening sky starts the first week of December 2014.

Next month will have two astronomical events highlighting news outlets, the opposition of Mars and a Total Lunar Eclipse of the Moon.

April 2014

Looking out at the sky in the early evening of April 6th, the Moon, nearly half phase is sitting 6 degrees below the bright planet Jupiter.

Mars is at opposition on April 8, closest to Earth on April 14 at a distance of 57,406,300 miles. At that distance the planet Mars will subtend a angle of 15.2 arc seconds in size in the sky. The Full Moon subtends and angle of 30 arc minutes or 1800 arc seconds at a distance of 239,000 miles. SO NO MATTER WHAT THAT EMAIL YOU RECEIVED SAYS, MARS WILL NOT BE AS BIG AS THE FULL MOON. You do the math.

The next two oppositions of Mars are May 22, 2016 when it will be a liitle larger at 18.6 arc seconds, or about the size of Saturn without it’s rings. The July 27, 2018 opposition is when Mars is closer to the Earth and it’s size is 22.6 arc seconds.

It just so happens that a Total Lunar eclipse will happen near the same time, and during TOTALITY the Moon will be reddish. Don’t get confused, a simple rule to remember MOON BIG in Sky, Mars small in sky. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself since Mars shining at -1.4 magnitude will be 9 degrees to the upper right of the Moon during the Total Lunar Eclipse. MOON BIG in Sky, Mars small in sky.

A Total Lunar Eclipse is in store for all of the Americas on the 15 April. It starts early in the morning entering the umbra at 1:58 AM EDT Tuesday morning, totality occurring at 3:45 AM EDT, exiting the umbra at 5:33 EDT. The north or top of the moon will be just below the center of the umbra at mid eclipse. I would expect the north of the moon to look orange – red color and the south a yellowish or perhaps light blue. That would make be a nice photo. MOON BIG in Sky, Mars small in sky.

2014 Apr 15 01:58 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, First Contact
2014 Apr 15 03:06 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Second Contact
2014 Apr 15 03:46 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Mid-eclipse
2014 Apr 15 04:25 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Third Contact
2014 Apr 15 05:33 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Last Contact

Rising late in the evening in the east on April 16th, the Moon, now waning, is a little more than 3 degrees right of the planet Saturn. The next day Saturn will be at opposition and about as large as it will get in the sky, as seen through a telescope about 18 arc seconds. But that is only the planet, when the rings are included the whole system extends to 39 arc second.

The rings are opening up to a 22-degree tilt; the maximum is around 26 degrees next year.

To close out the month, Venus and a crescent Moon make a lovely pair before sunrise on the 25th of April, with Venus shining at -4.1 magnitude to the lower left of the Moon.

May 2014

The Moon will not interfere in the early morning hours of 5th May for view the swift moving meteors of the Eta Aquariids meteor shower. Expect a high count in early morning skies, in the range of 10 to 15 during the night if you are lucky to have an unobstructed view of the sky. Halley’s Comet is the source of these meteors.

Mars is at opposition and shines at -1.5 magnitude on the 8h of May. The planet is 15 minutes of arc in a telescopic view. Four years from now in 2018, the planet Mars will be at it’s largest of 24 minutes of arc when it is at opposition.

Saturn is at opposition, rising as the Sun sets on the 10th of May, visible during suitable time schedule. The rings are tilted over 21 degrees now and will reach a maximum tilt of 26 degree in 2015-2016.

Venus and the waxing crescent Moon pair up again in the eastern morning sky on the 25th of May. Venus will be below the Moon this time.

Mercury is now in the western sky at sunset reaching Greatest Eastern Elongation on the 25th of this month when it will be 12 degrees above the horizon. A good unobstructed view and binoculars are helpful when searching for this inner most planet.
You have a better chance to find Mercury on the 30th of May after sunset using the waxing crescent Moon as a guide to the planet. Imagine the crescent Moon as a bow and trace a line toward the right to locate Mercury 8 degrees from the Moon.

The very next night, 31st May, the waxing crescent Moon will be 7 degrees below the planet Jupiter.

June 2014

The Moon continues to pass close by the visible planets. Starting early on the evening of 7th of June the orange-red color -0.3 magnitude planet Mars will be 2 degrees above the waxing Moon.

Three days later on 10th of June the Moon will pair up with Saturn to the right of the Moon by some 10 degrees.

Turn your attention to the morning sky before sunrise to see another pairing of Venus some 3 degrees to the left of the waning crescent Moon on the 24th of June.

July 2014

We start this month with Mars very close to the Moon. Mars will be 1/2 deg of a degree, the width of the moon, from the north of the First Quarter Moon on the 5th of July. Saturn will join the waxing gibbous Moon closely on the 7th of July. The ringed planet will be a little more than one degree north of the Moon.

Mercury is at its Greatest Western Elongation in the morning sky on the12th of July, the best of the year. It is not alone in the morning sky; Venus shines at -4 magnitude only 7 degrees higher. Find Venus then Mercury is to the lower left shining at 0.3 magnitude. This is a site worth rising up early to see.

The Third Quarter Moon has a special treat for those with a telescope. At 4:00 a.m. on the morning of July 18th due south by a little more than the diameter of the Moon will be the planet Uranus. It will be the “brightest 7th magnitude star” in the region.

Hugging the eastern horizon on the morning of 24th of July is the waning crescent Moon and the bright planet Venus 6 degrees to its left. A nice sight in the blue twilight sky.

August 2014

A Moon 2 day past Full will put a damper on The Perseid Meteor Shower this year. Only the brightest Perseid meteors will be visible, many more are seen after midnight.

The big show is this month is in the morning sky before sunrise. There is a short window of time to view the bright planets Venus heading toward conjunction with the Sun and Jupiter rise from the Sun’s glare. Scan the eastern horizon 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise starting August 15th through August 21st. Venus shinning at -4.0 will be easy to spot, to it’s lower lest is -1.8 magnitude Jupiter. Each passing day they move closer together, and then on August 18th they pass each other by a separation of 1/4 degree. The only two object in the blue twilight of the eastern sky before sunrise.

While Venus dives into the solar glare Jupiter rises higher in the sky away from the Sun. A waxing crescent Moon joins the two planets in the twilight sky as they form an 8 degree triangle low on the horizon.

Now for something completly different. If Sunday afternoon is a clear day around 1:00 pm,aim a telescope to the east and locate the waxing moon is rising from the horizon. On the unlit side of the moon, left side, look for the ring planet Saturn. The moon will move slowly towards Saturn mvong to block the planet from or sight, an occultation of Saturn by the Moon in the daylight sky.

Saturn will reapear on the illuminated side of the moon 34 minutes later. Luck, clear skies, a good horizon view and a telescope are required to witness this event.

2014 Aug 31 13:25 Moon occults Saturn, First Contact, Sep=+00°15’34″, Alt=10°
2014 Aug 31 13:26 Moon occults Saturn, Second Contact, Sep=+00°15’18″, Alt=11°
2014 Aug 31 13:42 Moon occults Saturn, Mid-occultation, Sep=+00°13’20″, Alt=13°
2014 Aug 31 13:59 Moon occults Saturn, Third Contact, Sep=+00°15’19″, Alt=16°
2014 Aug 31 14:00 Moon occults Saturn, Last Contact, Sep=+00°15’35″, Alt=16°

In the evening sky on August 31st the waning crescent Moon sits 4 degrees between the equally bright planets Saturn and Mars. Mars to the left, Saturn to the right of the Moon. This sight should all fit into a binocular the field of view.

September 2014

Jupiter shines alone in the morning sky this month. Well before sunrise the waning crescent Moon is 6 degrees to the lower right of Jupiter on the 20th of September.

Mercury is at its Greatest Eastern Elongation in the western sky at sunset on the 21st of September. This is not a good time to see the planet as the ecliptic makes a shallow angle to the horizon, therefore the planet Mercury is very low in the bright glare of the early twilight sky setting quickly.

The 27th of September there is a good chance that the planet Saturn could be seen 3 degrees to the upper left of the waxing crescent Moon. Two day later on the 29th the planet Mars will be directly below the waxing moon.

October 2014

Another Total Lunar Eclipse of the Moon occurs in the morning sky of October 8th. This happen on Wednesday Morning before sunrise. THE ECLIPSE WILL BE HISTORY IF YOU LOOK ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT.

The Moon will pass thru the northern part of the shadow of the Earth. The southern part of the Moon will be darker orange- red, the northern more of a yellow or possibly light blue. In any event the Moon will be setting in the west not long after totality and close to sunrise. The beginning will be seen in dark skies, mid-eclipse in as the sun rises.

2014 Oct 8 04:14 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Enter Penumbra
2014 Oct 8 04:44 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Penumbra First Visible
2014 Oct 8 05:14 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, First Contact
2014 Oct 8 06:24 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Second Contact
2014 Oct 8 06:55 a.m. Lunar Eclipse, Mid-eclipse

If using a telescope to view the lunar eclipse, you can also look for the planet Uranus 2 degrees to the upper left of the Moon.
Also keep a watch on the 5.7 magnitude star SAO109471 to the left of the moon. Around 5:00 am the moon will occult this star during the eclipse.

October 17th finds the waning Moon 9 degrees to the right of the planet Jupiter in the morning sky.

November 2014

Since later October Mercury has been steadily climbing higher into the morning twilight sky. On November 1st Mercury reached its Greatest Western Elongation. With the ecliptic is at a high angle to the horizon Mercury is close to 12 degree from the Sun making for good viewing conditions of the -0.5 magnitude planet.

Also riding high in the dark morning sky is the Third Quarter Moon with a -2.2 magnitude Jupiter to it’s left on 14th of November.

The Leonid meteor shower peaks in the early morning hours of November 17th ,the waning moon rises around 2:00 am. The rate of meteors is very low, a Zenith Hourly Rate expected to be in the 10-15 range. Recall ZHR is a average of what a person could expect to see if one could see in all directions at the same time. Real numbers will be much lower per person.

The waxing crescent Moon is joined by Mars on the 25th of November in the western sky after sunset. Mars is dimmer by 2 magnitudes from when it was at opposition in April.

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.

2013 Every month this year there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above.  Click on links to see photographs of the event.

January 2013

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.

February 2013

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.

March 2013

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.

April 2013

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

May 2013

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.

June 2013

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.

July 2013

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.

August 2013

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.

September 2013

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.

October 2013

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.

November 2013

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 other bigger event or non event? Comet ISON may be visible in the morning sky starting mid monthThe 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.

December 2013

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 and comet ISON is closest to the East and may be visible to the eye low in the western horizon after susnset, binoculars aid the view. Each passing day the comet moves northward, higher in altitude in the west north west sky with diminishing brightness.