Almanac

2018 Events for Scranton, Pennsylvania

January

Using the waxing crescent Moon and the 3rd magnitude star Lambda Aquarii as guides the 8th magnitude outer planet Neptune can be spotted in a telescope some 2 degrees to the right of the Moon. Brighter star Lambda Aquarii is about 3 degrees right of the Moon. They are all about 16 degrees above West-South-West horizon when the sky is dark enough to locate Neptune.

View of the Jan 31st Lunar Eclipse is not very favorable from our part of the country. The entry into outer penumbra of the Earth’s shadow starts as the Moon is setting on the Eastern horizon in a twilight sky. The Moon will be below our local horizon by the time the Moon enters the darker umbra portion of the Earth’s shadow.

February

The last two weeks of this month is a good time to start looking for the planet Venus as it returns into the evening sky. It will be to the upper left in the sky from where the Sun had set below the horizon. This will be a challenge to find the brilliant -4 magnitude planet so close to, 10 degrees, above the horizon. A partly cloudy horizon sky, cold temperature and low altitude of the planet will be the primary disadvantages. By mid March Venus will be easily seen in the western sky.

March

Our Moon and planets Venus, Mercury and Uranus make close passages this month. However they are all very low in the western sky and very challenging to view close to the setting Sun. The best chance to see the trio of the Moon with Venus and Mercury close by is the evening of March 18th, when the crescent Moon, Venus and Mercury form a straight line low in the western sky. Use the Moon as your guide to find -4 magnitude Venus 4 degrees to the upper right then 0.4 magnitude Mercury 4 degrees to the upper right of Venus. This will be the best evening apparition of the year to locate the elusive planet Mercury in the sky.

An interesting close pairing of the brilliant Venus and dimmer outer planet Uranus will occur on the evening of March 28th. Separated by only 5 minutes of arc, this will be a favorite time to see the two planets an the same in the eyepiece of your telescopic. As the horizon sky darkens the fainter 6th magnitude Uranus will come into view of the telescope eyepiece. Venus will be seen as 95% “full” phase. Sure to be on the top of many astrophotographer list of a photo opt to capture.

April

It’s the return of Spring, bringing slightly warmer day and cooler evening, even thought long sleeve shirts and light coats will still be require for a while more. Returning into the western sky after sunset and shine a brilliant -4.0 magnitude is the planet Venus. Venus climbs higher in the sky on each passing day, joined in the sky by the crescent Moon on the 17th by some 5 degrees to left of the planet.

Now would be a good time of year to see the winter constellations as the before they depart over the western horizon. At least the temperature is warmer, hopefully, than our winter weather. To assist identifying the bright stars and Constellation go to SkyMaps.com web site and download the Northern hemisphere PDF star map for April. The constellations Orion, Taurus and Canis Major, with Sirius the brightest star in the sky, are lower on the western horizon. The Pleiades, or seven sisters, star cluster is join by Venus by the end of the month. Higher up in the sky are Gemini and Auriga, Canis Minor.

May

The start of this month, May 6th, finds the Moon 2 degrees from Mars. Mars will become to dominate the news as it’s on the way to opposition during the warm month of July. In the early morning look for the waning Moon and -0.5 magnitude planet Mars low on the eastern horizon. Slowly getting larger in angular size, 12 arc seconds when viewed in telescopes, only the largest dark features may be seen in the eyepiece end of astronomical telescopes. It is 74 million miles from Earth.

During mid month, May 17th, in the west at sunset is the much brighter planet Venus shining at minus 4 magnitude. The crescent shaped Moon is 6 degrees to the left of Venus in the twilight sky. Venus also spans 12 arc seconds in angular size when viewed in a telescope and over 125 million miles from Earth

Our Moon make a much closer approach to the 1st magnitude star Regulus on the 21st of this month. The Moon stands just over one degree over this bright star of the constellation of Leo. This is a very close passage.

June

Seven planets are in the sky, and Pluto, too. Look down at you feet to see the 8th.

Once again the crescent Moon is same region of the sky as the bright planet Venus at mid-month. On the evening of June 16th, Venus shines at -4 magnitude to the right of a crescent Moon. Venus is now 107 million miles from Earth and grown to 14 arc second in size in a telescope view.  Its appearance is now gibbous phase in a telescope eyepiece view. This is best seen in early twilight, before the bright planet is in dark sky and placed lower on the horizon.

Seven days later, on June 23rd, Jupiter, shining at -2.4 magnitude, will be place 4 degrees to the lower right of the gibbous waxing Moon. Both will give spectacular eyepiece telescope views. With your telescope, watch as the moon of Jupiter, Io, emerges from behind the limb of the planet Jupiter around 10:38 pm EDT.

Keep your telescope and binoculars handy, for on June 27th, the planet Saturn will be just one degree below the near Full Moon. Look for bright rays from craters Tyco and Copernicus, and the difference of the dark floors of the Mare. The rings of Saturn are tipping 27 degrees to our viewing angle from the Earth this year. This will give the classic view of the rings that surround Saturn. Saturn’s moons will be difficult to see in the telescope, situated so close to our own bright Moon in the sky.

Mercury makes an appearance low in the western sky at sunset at the end of the month. It’s not the it best show, being low on the horizon the clouds and haze in sky at sunset will make it all the more difficult. Begin to search for this elusive planet on the 24th of the month and each evening into July. Why? Because this is a good time to see the planets known to the ancient civilizations, from Mercury, Venus, (Earth and Moon), Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the course of one day. With a telescope planet Uranus and Neptune are in good viewing positions. The ONLY difficult one to see with the eye or with binoculars would be planet Mercury.

July

The chance to search for and view the 7 planets in the sky are closing.
If you still having trouble finding planet Mercury, then you get one day to improve your odds. On the evening of July 14th, the thin crescent Moon will be your guide to locating Mercury just 1.5 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. Well within the field of view of binoculars or a small telescope using low power.

The Moon and Venus continue to dance in the western sky. This evening, 15th of July, the Crescent Moon is sitting right of the minus 4.1 magnitude planet Venus by 3 degrees. Venus has increased to 17.8 arc seconds in angular size, and now at 88 million miles from Earth and looking close to half illuminated. This is still smaller than what planet Mars will look like at the end of the month.

Next up is Jupiter, 39 arc seconds in angular size, sitting less then 4 degrees below the First Quarter moon. The Moon moves in its orbit to pair up closely with the solar system showpiece, Saturn. They will be less than 3 degrees apart with the near Full Moon to the upper right of the planet.

The Moon will be too bright on the 30th of July to search for tiny Neptune only 3,5 degrees upper left of the Moon.

The BIG SHOW is the return to opposition of the red planet Mars. Officially closest approach to Earth occurs at 3:51 am EDT on July 27, 2018, with an apparent planetary disk diameter of 24.3 arc seconds at a distance of 35,785,537 miles.

Mars will not rise above the local horizon until after 9:00 pm locally. It will be at the meridian near 1:00 am at only 22 degrees above our southern horizon.

The southern pole of Mars is tilted towards the Earth as it approaches opposition. It will be winter in the southern hemisphere of Mars. The south polar cap will shrink as winter gives to spring in the Southern hemisphere of Mars.

Aug

Mars is dominant this month in the evening sky; just past opposition it will be rising earlier each passing day. In view at the by mid month will be the bright Hellas Basin feature followed by the darker feature and Sytris Major. Both of these are easy to view on the surface of the planet.

The Perseids Meteor Shower will have little interference from the Moon around peak time of the display. The peak days are evening of Sunday August 12 and Monday morning of August 13.  Perseids can be seen from July 17 to August 24 in considerably lower rates. So hope for clear skies, dress for cool nights and have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and snack handy.

A few days later the Moon will be in the sky and passing by the 3 bright planets of Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. The evening of the 13th finds the fat crescent Moon 5 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter.

The slow dance of sky is evident on the nights of 16th and 17th. Take note of the Moon’s position on the16th, when it will be place to the right of planet Saturn, the next evening the Moon has traveled to the left of Saturn.

One more chance to see elusive planet Mercury in the morning sky before dawn. Look for the planet toward the upper right of were the sunrises. It will be highest on the 26th of the month.

Sept

Venus is lower in the sky now; setting an hour after sunset, on it’s way to departing from the evening sky by the end of the month. Jupiter will follow suit in the coming weeks. As Venus dips lower in the sky, the Moon cannot get as closes to the planet as in the past months. Chances to see the crescent Moon 9 degrees above Venus soon after sunset on the 12th of this month may be the last for the season.

Jupiter is still high enough in the sky; the Moon is less tha 5 degrees to the upper right of the planet on the evening of the13th.

Saturn and the First Quarter Moon will be 4 degrees apart on the evening of the 19th.

Mars is still shinning bright, at minus 1.7 magnitude, and near the meridian at 9 pm. The fat Gibbous Moon is less than 5 degrees to the upper right of bright Mars on the evening of the 19th. Mars is now 17.7 arc seconds in size, shrinking as it moves away from the Earth. Tonight it is 49 million miles from the Earth, still a good view in telescopes. Mars has just began its retrograde motion in the sky, it is starting to move eastward among the stars.

Oct

Jupiter will be departing over the western horizon at the end of this month. The last good pairing of the crescent Moon and Jupiter is a close one of 3 degrees on the evening of the 11th. This will not be easy to see due to the low altitude of both objects. The crescent Moon is to the upper right of the planet Jupiter.

Three nights later on the 14th the Moon makes a close pass of Saturn. Saturn is 3 degrees left of the near First Quarter Moon.

Mars is now 63 million miles from the Earth, and shows a disc of 14 arc seconds in a telescope view. The South Polar Cap on Mars has all but disappeared. Losing it’s brightness, it’s still at -1.0 magnitude. The Gibbous Moon is 6 degrees right of the planet on the 17th of this month.

Nov

The two planets in the sky now visible to the naked eye are Saturn and Mars. Uranus and Neptune are also in the sky, but only visible in a telescope. The Moon will be 3 degrees left of Saturn on the 11th of the month. By the 18th the Moon is near equal distance between Saturn on the right and Mars on the left of the Gibbous Moon. By the next night, the 19th a Gibbous Moon stands above Mars by less than 5 degrees

Dec

To the start of this month is a telescopic treat. Mars will pass close by the outer planet Neptune on the night of the 7th this month, it will very close paring during the afternoon hours. By night fall they will be visible at low magnification in a telescope. Mars, only 8.8 arc seconds in angular diameter now, and Neptune will be only 15 ARC SECONDS apart in our skies! Neptune will be lower right of Mars a 8.0 magnitude a small 2.3 arc second angular disc. Don’t be confused by the 6th magnitude star above Mars.

The Geminid Meteor Shower show be a good early morning show on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The Moon will set around midnight; so get rested early to stay awake in the early morning hours. But be sure look for the Moon and Mars on evening of the 14th. The Moon will be less than 5 degrees below Mars.

Saturn is leaving our skies this month. It will be over the western horizon by the end of the year. Mars is still hanging on.

The planet Mercury will be seen in the morning sky in December, on the morning of the 7th it will be farthest from the Sun. This is the best time to view Mercury since it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the morning sky. Look for the planet low in the eastern sky just before sunrise. Jupiter will join Mercury in the sky later in the month. On the 21st they will be separated by less than one degree, a great way to find the elusive planet Mercury.

Next Month there is a Total Lunar Eclipse.

JAN 2019

2019 Jan 20 22:36  Lunar Eclipse, Enter Penumbra, Sep=+01°36’40″, Alt=51°
2019 Jan 20 23:05  Lunar Eclipse, Penumbra First Visible, Sep=+01°19’49″, Alt=56°
2019 Jan 20 23:32  Lunar Eclipse, First Contact, Sep=+01°04’11″, Alt=60°
2019 Jan 21 00:39  Lunar Eclipse, Second Contact, Sep=+00°30’19″, Alt=67°
2019 Jan 21 01:12  Lunar Eclipse, Mid-eclipse, Sep=+00°23’00″, Alt=69°
2019 Jan 21 01:45  Lunar Eclipse, Third Contact, Sep=+00°30’20″, Alt=68°
2019 Jan 21 02:52  Lunar Eclipse, Last Contact, Sep=+01°04’14″, Alt=60°
2019 Jan 21 03:19  Lunar Eclipse, Penumbra Last Visible, Sep=+01°19’52″, Alt=56°
2019 Jan 21 03:48  Lunar Eclipse, Exit Penumbra, Sep=+01°36’45″, Alt=51°