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Sky Almanac



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

July 2015

Venus and Jupiter continue their dance on the western horizon in the first week of this month. Venus shines at a brilliant -4.3 magnitude; Jupiter is dimmer and bright at -1.8 magnitude. They are separated by the width of the Moon at sunset on July 1st, pulling away from each other on July 2nd. Venus and Jupiter are moving downward to the horizon each night, Jupiter moving into the glare of the Sun. They will exit the western sky by the end of the month.

In the morning sky planets Mercury and Mars are heading for a close pass in the sky, with the very thin crescent Moon lower and left by 6 degrees from the two planets. It will be nearly impossible to see this event, as all are only 8 degrees from the Sun. The glare of the Sun, low altitude and sunrise all play a part to preventing viewing this event on July 15th morning.

The evening of July 18th will be the last opportunity to see the crescent Moon 1 degree below Venus and the planet Jupiter 6 degrees right of Venus.

A gibbous Moon is 4.5 degrees right of the planet Saturn in the SSW sky on the evening of July 25th. 

August 2015

This is a good year to watch the annual Persied meteor shower; the peak occurs on the evening of August 11th, morning of August 12th. During the peak hour up to 50 of the swift meteors night can be seen diligent observers. Moonlight will not be a problem this year as the Moon will be a very thin crescent rising in the morning twilight on August 12th. If you have not given up looking for meteors use the Moon to locate the 1.7 magnitude planet Mars some 9.5 degrees to the lower right of the Moon. Watch out for the rising Sun if using binoculars!

Planet Mercury makes a poor showing in the west this month with the best chance to locate it is on the evening of August 16. Using binoculars, start out early before sunset to locate the crescent Moon some 25 degrees to the left of the setting Sun. By sunset the Moon will only be 5 degrees above the western horizon. Just 5 degrees right of the Moon is -0.2 magnitude Mercury in bright twilight skies.  This will not be easy; a hazy sky or cloudy horizon lowers the chance to see either.

The Moon reaches 1st Quarter phase on the night of August 22nd, and is 3.5 degrees lower right is 0.5 magnitude planet Saturn.    

September 2015

At the start of the month, Venus is high enough away from the horizon in the late morning twilight sky and shines at a brilliant -4.4 magnitude. Venus is some 8 degrees left of the planet Mars on the morning of September 2nd and will continue to glide up higher in the sky with each passing day. A crescent Moon is between Venus and Mars on the morning of September 10, should be a nice sight to see.

Look for the fat crescent Moon on the evening of September 18th some 2 degrees right of Saturn. 

This Big Event this month is the Total Lunar Eclipse on the evening September 27th. Unlike the last one in April, the entire eclipse from start to finish will be visible in our region. The center of the Moon will pass below the center of the shadow of the Earth. The top of the Moon will be closer to the center of the shadow of the Earth; the bottom of the Moon will be close to the edge of the shadow of the Earth.  To see a diagram of this visit this web site.   http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEdecade/LEdecade2011.html

EDT

In the morning 3 bright planets are gathering for a parade in October skies.

October 2015

In predawn skies this October the brightest planets will come close together to each other, with the Moon joining in the mix. Venus (-4.5 mag.), Mars (1.8 mag.) and Jupiter (-1.8 mag.) are strung out in a line at the start of the month. The 1.3 magnitude star Regulus will also be part of this configuration, standing between Venus and Mars from October 1st to October 6th.

Venus is higher at the start of the month reaching Greatest Western Elongation on October 26th.  Before then a thin gibbous Moon is 3 degrees is above Venus with the star Regulus left of Venus forming a triangle of a star, a planet and a moon on October 8th.

The Moon is part of another triangle with Mars and Jupiter on October 9. Trace the path of the Moon to the horizon and you may see the planet Mercury low on the eastern horizon as a 0.3 magnitude star. On October 11 the Moon will be 1.2 degrees lower right of Mercury, a good chance to make a positively identify the planet Mercury.

In four days Mercury will be Greatest Western Elongation from the Sun, the highest it will reach away from the Sun.

You can find the thin crescent Moon at sunset on October 15 some 8 degrees right of 0.6 magnitude Saturn. Look early as they are low on the horizon and set early. 

Back to the morning parade, Jupiter climbs higher each night as Mars descends to the eastern horizon. Watch these two planets as Mars glides past Jupiter from October 15th - 20th They will be separated by 23 minutes of arc on October 17th. That's less that the width of the Moon.  Keep an eye on Venus on those mornings as it nears 1 degrees left of Jupiter on October 25th, Mars completes the triangle at a little over 3 degrees below Venus and Jupiter.  

The Moon will interfere with the Orionid meteor shower in the early evening hours on October 21st; the Moon setting around midnight. Watch for Orionids meteors while out watching the parade of planets in the morning sky.

November 2015

The morning parade of planets and Moon conjunctions continues for another two weeks. Starting with Venus passing close to the right of Mars from November 1st - 3rd They are closest to each other on October 3rd, a little less than 45 minutes of arc between them. Our Moon joins in the parade, pass a little less than 4 degrees right of the -1.9 magnitude planet Jupiter on November 6th. 

The next morning, November 7th, the crescent Moon is 2 degrees right of Venus and 3 degrees below Mars, and tight triangle in the sky. With binoculars you might be able to see the 4th magnitude star Beta Virginis, Zavijava, between the Moon and Mars.   

For the rest of the month Jupiter, Mars and Venus continue to separate from each other, stringing out in a near straight line on the ecliptic plane.  

December 2015 

Once more the Moon will pass by Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the morning sky. Beginning of December 1st the Moon is 4 degrees lower left of -2.0 magnitude Jupiter in the southern skies at sunrise. On December 5th the Moon is  6 degrees right of Mars, the next morning December 6th it is between Mars (1.5 mag) and Venus (-4.2 mag), closer to Mars than Venus. 

A daylight event that is worth a mention will occur on Monday afternoon Dec 7th at 12:38 p.m. At that time the Moon will pass in front of the planet Venus. The illuminated side of the crescent Moon, 13% illumination, will occult the planet Venus (-4.2 mag., 70% illuminated). Search for the Moon in the WSW sky some 30 to 20 degrees above the horizon before the start of the event. Factors against viewing this event: it's December, it may be cold, they are low on the horizon, and it's daylight. Binoculars and a telescope are required to view this event.