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Sky Almanac

Every month there are wonderful sights to see in the sky above.

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 little 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.

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 completely 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 moving to block the planet from or sight, an occultation of Saturn by the Moon in the daylight sky.

Saturn will reappear 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. 

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. 

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 November 13  the Geminid meteor shower will climb to maximum ZHR on Sunday morning. Rated at ZHR 120 meteors per hour, this is one of the better annual meteor 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.