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Venus in August 2018 August 1, 2018

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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Everyone else may be talking about Mars, but don’t miss your chance to check out Venus this month!

 

The orbits of Earth, Venus, and Mercury about the Sun, with 16º elongation and maximum eastern and western elongation shown.
The maximum elongations for Venus are shown with the dashed lines, and those for Mercury are shown with the dotted lines.

Venus orbits closer to the Sun than we do. That means from our point of view, it never gets very far from the Sun. When it is farthest in the sky from the Sun, we call it greatest elongation. On August 18, Venus will be at greatest eastern elongation, and it’ll be a little over 45º east of the Sun. That means it’ll be easy to see in the western sky for at least an hour after sunset.

 

 

Additionally, Venus will be headed for a crescent phase, which brings it closer to us, so it’ll be getting bigger and brighter. It’ll actually be at it’s brightest near the end of September.

 

 

Because of the angle of the ecliptic, it sets a lot sooner in September. Here are a couple maps showing the ecliptic from SE Michigan (or anywhere between 40 – 50º N latitude) on August 1st and 30th, both 1 hour after sunset. You can see the ecliptic moves southward, which means anything on the ecliptic will set earlier in the northern hemisphere.

W (west) is at the center bottom and NW near the bottom right corner. The ecliptic runs from the top left corner to the bottom about 1/4 of the way between W and NW.

Venus and the ecliptic on August 1st 2018, 1 hour after sunset.

W (west) is at the center bottom and NW near the bottom right corner. The ecliptic runs from the top left corner to the bottom just to the left of W.

Venus and the ecliptic on August 30th 2018, 1 hour after sunset.

So now’s the time for the easiest and latest observations of Venus, and September will be the time for the brightest and most interesting telescopic view of Venus!

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View all the naked eye planets at dawn January 20, 2016

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro, Urban Observing.
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The return of Mercury to the morning skies means all the naked eye planets are visible at dawn now. We have a couple weeks’ worth of great morning observing coming up, which might make you glad for late sunrises.

Start with January 24th. At 7 AM, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the Moon spread out across the entire sky.

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The sky at 7 AM on January 24

The 25th marks the day of least span. From Mercury to Jupiter will cover only 112º 3′ that day, or about 2/3 of the sky from southeast to southwest.

By the 28th, the planets will have spread out to 112º 40’ (not a noticeable change to most of us), but the Moon will be inside that span. It’ll be right next to bright Jupiter, so if you like taking pictures, it’s a good opportunity.

28Jan0700_z

The sky at 7 AM on January 28. Jupiter and the Moon make a good pair.

The Moon tends to overwhelm the other planets, but if you like conjunctions, look for the Moon and:  Spica on the 30th; Mars on February 1; Saturn on the 3rd; and Venus and Mercury on the 6th.

If your goal is a glimpse of illusive Mercury, take your binoculars out on February 4th, when Mercury is more than 5 1/2° above the southeast horizon at 7 AM. That’s about the same as holding 3 fingers at arm’s length, so a clear horizon is a must.  It’ll be up 10° by 7:30, but by then it will also be very bright out. 

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Mercury is farthest from the horizon at 7 AM on February 4th.

On February 6, head out with the binoculars again and use Venus to find Mercury and an old crescent Moon. 

06Feb0700_SE

Bright Venus can guide you to an old Moon and Mercury on Feb. 6th.

Mercury, the fleet footed messenger, and Venus, goddess of love, will be at their closest on February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day. May he speed your messages to the one you love.

 

How the sky would look if the planets were as close as the moon [8 pictures] – 22 Words April 10, 2013

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Science.
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How the sky would look if the planets were as close as the moon [8 pictures] – 22 Words.

This is a nice way to put the planets (and in some ways, the distance to the Moon) in perspective.

The Night After Christmas Sky Show – NASA Science December 23, 2011

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, MichiganAstro.
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The Night After Christmas Sky Show – NASA Science.

If the kids get you up too early on Christmas morn, you can try taking a look for Comet Lovejoy. It’s headed south though, so if you’re as far north as I am, it’ll be a tough catch. Maybe I’ll get a glimpse of the tail…

If you happen to be in the southern hemisphere however, you can’t miss the comet. Really. You need to set an alarm for an hour before sunrise and get out there. It’s spectacular. Check out the pictures on http://spaceweather.com/.

Slightly easier is Mercury, 10 degrees up and almost due southeast at 7:30 AM on Sunday here in Michigan.Southern observers should look for it to the east of comet Lovejoy.

Everyone gets a treat Christmas night. Jupiter, Venus and a young moon will gather in the western sky after sunset. Take that new pair of binoculars out and have a look, because you’ll be able to see those three object no matter how bad the light pollution is. They’re an easy target for beginners too, and the Earth-shine gives a nice bit of detail to the Moon without being blinding.