July Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, July Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Draco, Ursa Minor, Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Cygnus, Aquila, Lyra, Hercules, Corona Borealis, Bootes, Coma Berenices, Canes Venatici

  • Comet Journals 

Comet C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) is a 8th magnitude comet circling through Sextans. Perihelion passage is in late September when it may briefly attain naked eye visibility at 1st magnitude. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on October 12, lighting up the western evening sky. It will then circle through the summer triangle in Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra for the next 6 months as it retreats to the Oort Cloud. 

Comet 13P/Olbers (2024) is a short period 7th magnitude comet in Lynx and Leo Minor in July. It passed through perihelion on June 30 and will be closest to Earth on July 20.

  • Mars Landers 

The Insight Lander, which sent its final goodbyes in December, 2022, provided an enormous amount of scientific data. Scientists will be mining these measurements and others collected by NASA missions for decades. A dead rover/lander/orbiter is not the final story, hypothetical and theoretical interpretations come and go, but measurements are immortal! They can be used again and again to develop more accurate hypotheses and theories. Ingrid Daubar, an associate professor (research) of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University, recently analyzed Martian seismic data collected by the Insight Lander and concluded that Mars experiences far more impacts from space debris than was previously thought. The ramifications of this discovery may be far-reaching, they could possibly change the way we estimate ages of solar system bodies. Crater count has long been one means of estimating age— the more craters per unit area, the older the terrain. Initial studies of measurements made by our celestial robots focused on the new and shiny, most obvious, easiest, or immediately interesting phenomena, more subtle investigations were left for the future. There is a plethora of info yet to be extracted from lunar rocks collected by the Apollo missions 55 years ago.

Meteor Showers

Two relatively minor meteor showers in late July are separated by the Delta Aquarids on the 27th. The Piscis Austrinids are a minor southern hemisphere shower on the 27th, and the Alpha CapricornIds are on the 29th.

July 27: Pisces Austrinids. Active July 15-August 10. Radiant 22h44m -30°, ZHR 5, 35 km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: ?.

July 27: Delta Aquarids. Active July 12-August 19. Radiant 22h3m -16°, ZHR 20, 41 km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comet 96P/Machholz and/or Asteroid 2003 EH1.

July 29: Alpha Capricornids. Active July 3-August 15. Radiant 20h28m -10°, ZHR 4, 23 km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: 169P/Neat, 2017 MB1 

  • Planet Plottings 

Mercury (0.4 to 1.1 in Cancer and Leo) and Venus (3.8 in Gemini, Cancer, and Leo) are evening planets in the western sky during July. On the 6th, the waxing crescent Moon passes Venus and, on the 7th, both planets appear between the Moon and the horizon. Mercury is located 3° below the Moon and Venus is hugging the horizon. Each moves higher in the sky during July. On the 22nd, Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, 27° from the Sun. 

Early morning skies display Jupiter (-1.9 to -2.0) and Uranus (5.8) in Taurus and Mars (1.0 to 0.9, in Aries) on the eastern horizon before sunrise. The waning crescent Moon passes Mars on the 1st and the red planet is above Uranus until the 15th when it passes within less than a degree and drops below the giant outer planet. The waning crescent Moon passes Uranus on the 2nd and Jupiter on the 3rd. Saturn (1.0 to 0.9, in Aquarius) and Neptune (7.8, in Pisces) are higher in the south and are passed by the waning gibbous Moon on the 24th and 25th. 

At the end of July, the waning crescent Moon again passes Uranus, Mars, and Jupiter, the former on the 29th and the latter two on the 30th.

Planet Constellation(s) Magnitude Planet Passages Time Date
Sun Taurus -26.5 New Moon 6:58PM EDT 7/5
Mercury Gemini, Cancer, Leo -0.4 to 1.1 Max. East Elongation 3:00AM EDT 7/22
Venus Gemini, Cancer, Leo -3.8
Mars Aries, Taurus 1.0 to 0.9 Uranus, 0.6°S 7/15
Jupiter Taurus -1.9 to -2.0
Saturn Aquarius 1.0 to 0.8
Uranus Taurus 5.8 Mars, 0.6°N 7/15
Neptune Pisces 7.9
  • July Moon

The New Moon of July is in Gemini on the 5th at 6:58PM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1256 which ends 29.51 days later with the New Moon of August in Cancer on the 4th at 7:13AM EDT. The Full Moon on the 21st occurs at 6:17AM EDT on the boundary between Capricornus and Sagittarius. It is known as the Hay or Thunder Moon. Colonial Americans preferred to call it the “Summer Moon”. To Celts it was the “Moon of Claiming”, and Chinese refer to it as the “Hungry Ghost Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Mead Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Miin-giizis (Blueberry Moon). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of their 13 Grandmother Moons. “The seventh moon of Creation is Raspberry Moon, when great changes begin. By learning gentleness and kindness, we may pass through the thorns of its bush and harvest its fruit, knowledge that will help in raising our families.”

Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on July 12 at 4:11AM EDT when the Moon’s distance is 251,259mi. (63.40 Earth radii). Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 24th when the Moon is at 226,749 mi. (57.21 Earth radii) at 1:41AM EDT.     

Planet Constellation Magnitude Moon Passages Moon Phase Moon Age
Sun Gemini -26.8 6:58AM EDT, 7/5 New 0 Days
Mercury Cancer -0.1 3.0°N, 3:00PM EDT, 7/7 Waxing Crescent 1.83 Days
Venus Gemini -3.8 3.8°NNE, 1:00PM EDT, 7/6 Waxing Crescent 0.75 Days
Mars Aries 1.0 5.0°N, 2:00PM EDT, 7/1 Waning Crescent 25.22 Days
Mars Aries 0.9 5.0°N, 7:00AM EDT, 7/30 Waning Crescent 24.50 Days
Jupiter Taurus -1.9 5.0°N, 4:00AM EDT, 7/3 Waning Crescent 26.81 Days
Jupiter Taurus -2.0 5.0°N, 8:00PM EDT, 7/30 Waning Crescent 25.04 Days
Saturn Aquarius 0.9 0.4°N, 11:00AM EDT, 7/24 Waning Gibbous 18.67 Days
Uranus Taurus 5.8 4.0°N, 6:00AM EDT, 7/2 Waning Crescent 21.10 Days
Uranus Taurus 5.8 4.0°N, 2:00PM EDT, 7/29 Waning Crescent 24.08 Days
Neptune Pisces 7.8 0.6° N, 5:00AM EDT, 7/25 Waning Gibbous 21.85 Days

June Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, June Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Virgo, Leo

  • Comet Journals 

Comet C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) is a 8th magnitude comet in northern Virgo. Perihelion passage is in Sextans in late September when it may briefly attain naked eye visibility at 1st magnitude. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on October 12, lighting up the western evening sky. It will then circle through the summer triangle in Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra for the next 6 months as it retreats to the Oort Cloud. 

Comet 13P/Olbers (2024) is a short period 6th magnitude comet between Auriga and Lynx. It will move into Leo Minor in July after passing through perihelion on June 30. it will be closest to Earth on July 20.

  • Mars Landers 

Abundant evidence for organic molecules on Mars gathered by the various landers over almost 50 years demands explanation. Are they of biologic or abiotic origin? According to Riko Seibo in his article “Tracing organic matter origins in Martian sediments” on marsdaily.com, Professors Yuichiro Ueno from Tokyo Institute of Technology and Matthew Johnson from the University of Copenhagen, concluded that carbon in Martian organic molecules have C-12, C-13 ratios more similar to organic molecules formed by atmospheric processes than those formed from biologic processes. “Early Mars had a CO2-rich atmosphere. Laboratory experiments showed that solar UV light causes 12CO2 to dissociate into CO depleted in 13C, leaving behind CO2 enriched in 13C. This isotopic fractionation also occurs in the upper atmospheres of Mars and Earth. In a reducing Martian atmosphere, CO transforms into simple organic compounds like formaldehyde and carboxylic acids, which may have settled in sediments.”  In new research described on science daily.com, scientists at Tohoku University determined that “Organic materials discovered on Mars may have originated from atmospheric formaldehyde.”

  • Meteor Showers

There are 3 meteor showers in June, the Arietids Lyrids, and Bootids The best is the Bootid shower at the end of June which has to compete with the waning gibbous Moon in Aquarius which is high in the south when Bootes is setting in the west and the meteors are most abundant. The two other showers are weak. 

June 27: Bootids. Active June 26-July 2. Radiant 14h56m +48°, ZHR variable 0-100+. 18 km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comet 7P Pons-Winnecke, a short-period comet orbiting the Sun once every 6.37 years which was last at perihelion in January, 2015.

  • Planet Plottings 

During June, morning skies host Jupiter (-1.8 to -1.9, in Taurus), Mercury (-0.8 to -0.5, in Taurus and Gemini), Uranus (5.8, in Taurus), Mars (1.1 to 1.0, in Pisces and Aries), Neptune (7.9, in Pisces), and Saturn (1.2 to 1.1, in Aquarius). They are lined up in that order in Taurus, Pisces, and Aquarius 25 minutes before sunrise on June 6. Jupiter and Mercury are just above the horizon south of the rising Sun after their June 4 conjunction. The waning crescent Moon is between Uranus and Mars and the others appear progressively higher when scanning to the ESE. The waning crescent Moon passes Mercury on the 5th which is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 14th, after which it moves to the evening sky and appears above the western horizon at month’s end. 

Early morning skies provide Jupiter views which, like those of nearby Uranus, are higher in the East as the month progresses. Uranus and Jupiter appear to approach Mars during the month and are passed by the waning crescent Moon on the 4th and 5th. Saturn and Neptune are in close proximity higher in the south in Aquarius and Pisces and are passed by the waning gibbous Moon on the 27th and 28th. 

Venus (-3.8, in Gemini) has its superior conjunction with the Sun on the 4th and is passed by the waning gibbous Moon passes by on the 6th. It does not appear in the night sky in June. The summer Solstice is on the 20th at 4:51PM EDT, giving us our longest day and shortest night because the northern hemisphere is nodding by 23.5° toward the Sun.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Taurus

-26.5

New Moon

8:38AM EDT

6/6

Mercury

Taurus, Gemini

-0.8 to -0.5

Jupiter, 0.1°S

6:00AM EDT

6/4

Mercury

Taurus, Gemini

-0.8 to -0.5

Superior Conjunction

1:00PM EDT

6/14

Venus

Gemini

-3.8

Superior Conjunction

Noon EDT

6/4

Mars

Pisces, Aries

1.1 to 1.0

Jupiter

Taurus

-1.8 to -1.9

Mercury, 0.1°N

6:00AM EDT

6/4

Saturn

Aquarius

1.2 to 1.1

Uranus

Taurus

5.8

Neptune

Pisces

7.9

  • June Moon 

The New Moon of June is in Taurus on the 6th at 8:38AM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1255 which ends 29.39 days later with the New Moon of July in Gemini on the 5th at 6:58PM EDT. 

The Full Moon on the 21st occurs at 9:08PM EDT in Sagittarius. It is called the Rose, Flower, or Strawberry Moon. Colonial Americans preferred to call it the “Rose Moon”. To the Celts it was the “Moon of Horses”, and the Chinese refer to it as the “Lotus Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Dyan Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Ode’imini-giizis (Strawberry Moon)” in the eastern dialect and “Baashkaabigonii-giizis (Blooming Moon) in the western dialect). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. “The sixth moon of Creation is Strawberry Moon. The medicine of the strawberry is reconciliation. It was during this moon cycle that communities usually held their annual feasts, welcoming everyone home, regardless of their differences over the past year, letting go of judgment and/or self-righteousness.”

Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 2nd when the Moon is at 228,728 mi. (57.71 Earth radii) at 3:16AM EDT. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on June 14 at 9:35AM EDT when the Moon’s distance is 251,082mi. (63.35 Earth radii).  

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Taurus

-26.8

8:38AM EDT, 6/6 New 0 Days
Mercury Taurus

-1.2

4.0°N, 1:00PM EDT, 6/5 Waning Crescent 28.57 Days
Venus Gemini

-3.8

4.5°N, 10:00AM EDT, 6/6 Waning Gibbous 16.18 Days
Mars Pisces

1.0

2.0°N, 8:00PM EDT, 6/2 Waning Crescent 25.86 Days
Jupiter Taurus

-1.8

5.0°N, 10:00AM EDT, 6/5 Waning Crescent 28.44 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.1

0.8°N, 11:00AM EDT, 6/27 Waning Gibbous 21.10 Days
Uranus Taurus

5.8

4.0°N, 9:00PM EDT, 6/4 Waning Crescent 27.90 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

0.3° N, 5:00AM EDT, 6/28 Waning Gibbous 26.03 Days

May Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, May Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Ophiuchus, Virgo, Leo

  • Comet Journals 

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is an enormous periodic comet which visits every 71 years. It has moved out of northern hemisphere skies and into those of the southern hemisphere. Closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) is on June 2.

Comet C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) is a 9th magnitude Oort cloud comet in northern Virgo. Perihelion passage is in southern skies in September, 2024 when it may reach naked eye visibility. It will then return to northern hemisphere skies and pass perigee (closest to Earth) in October. 

Comet 13P/Olbers (2024) is a short period 7th magnitude comet in Taurus. It will move into Auriga in late May. It will reach perihelion on June 30 and be closest to Earth on July 20.

Mars Landers 

The Perseverance rover is exploring the floor of Jezero Crater and has returned data indicating that the rocks observed formed at depth from crystallizing magma. They contain abundant olivine and have interacted with water numerous times since their formation billions of years ago. Like those found by the Curiosity rover in Gale Crater, they also contain organic molecules probably associated with the intervals when water was present. While the presence of organic molecules does not confirm that living organisms were involved with their formation, neither does it deny that possibility. Organic molecules can contain the elements, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and many others and are normally associated with life. However, there are numerous inorganic processes that can bring these elements together, so scientists look for evidence of conditions favorable to life in addition to the presence of organic molecules. Mars provides both, but has not yet revealed conclusive evidence for pre-existing or current life to any of the Martian probes and rovers. 

Boots on the ground will help, an endeavor that may have been recently accelerated by the developing of pulsed plasma rocket by Howe Industries. This system could shorten manned Mars missions to two months and allows for heavier, better-protected spacecraft, minimizing crew exposure to cosmic radiation.  

  • Meteor Showers

Southern hemisphere skies are best for seeing the Eta Aquarius shower which occurs just before New Moon. Northern dark sky viewers will not see the expected outburst but may still view a dozen or so per hour. 

Eta Aquarids: May 6, 2-4AM. Active Apr. 19- May 28. Radiant 22h32m -01°. ZHR 60. 66 km/sec. Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet Halley.

  • Planet Plottings 

Early May Evening skies provide a brief view of Jupiter (-1.9 to -1.8, in Taurus) before it disappears into the glow of sunset. It is in conjunction with the Sun on the 18th when Venus (-3.8, in Aries) passes within less than a degree from Uranus (+5.8, in Aries) six hours earlier. Venus is within less than a degree from Jupiter on the 23rd. Uranus is lost in sunset’s glare all month and is in conjunction with the Sun on the 13th and Mercury (1.1 to -0.7, in Pisces) on the 31st. 

During the first half of the month the east and east-southeast predawn sky hosts Mercury, Mars (1.1, in Pisces), Neptune (7.9, in Pisces), and Saturn (1.2, in Aquarius). They are lined up in that order in Pisces and Aquarius 45 minutes before sunrise on May 6. Mercury is just above the horizon south of the rising Sun and waning crescent Moon and the others appear progressively higher when scanning to the ESE. Mercury is 26° from the Sun at Greatest Western Elongation on the 9th.

The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Saturn on the 3rd, Neptune and Mars on the 4th, Mercury on the 6th, and Venus on the 7th. The waxing crescent passes Uranus and Jupiter on the 8th. The waning Gibbous Moon passes Saturn and Neptune on the 31st

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Pisces, Aries

-26.5

New Moon

11:22PM EDT

5/7

Mercury

Pisces

1.1 to -0.7

Max. West Elongation

6:00PM EDT

5/9

Mercury

Pisces

1.1 to -0.7

Uranus, 1.28°NW

4:00AM EDT

5/31

Venus

Aries

-3.8

Uranus, 0.45°NW

9:00AM EDT

5/18

Venus

Aries

-3.8

Jupiter, 0.19°S

5:00AM EDT

5/23

Mars

Pisces

1.1

Jupiter

Taurus

-1.9 to -1.8

Solar Conjunction

3:00PM EDT

5/18

Jupiter

Taurus

-1.9 to -1.8

Venus, 0.19°N

5:00AM EDT

5/23

Saturn

Aquarius

1.2

Uranus

Aries

5.8

Solar Conjunction

5:00AM EDT

5/13

Uranus

Aries

5.8

Venus, 0.45°SE

9:00AM EDT

5/18

Uranus

Aries

5.8

Mercury, 1.28°SE

4:00AM EDT

5/31

Neptune

Pisces

7.9

 

 

  • May Moon 

The New Moon of May is in Aries on the 7th at 2:21PM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1254 which ends 29.39 days later with the New Moon of May in Pisces on the 6th at 8:39AM EDT. 

The Full Moon on the 23rd occurs at 9:53AM EDT in Libra. It is called the Planting, or Milk Moon. Colonial Americans preferred to call it the “Milk Moon”. To Celts it was the “Bright Moon”, and Chinese refer to it as the “Dragon Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Hare Moon”, and Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Zaagibagaa-giizis (Budding Moon)” in the eastern dialect and “Namebine-giizis (Suckerfish Moon)” in the western dialect). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. “The fifth moon of Creation is Flower Moon, where all plants display their Spirit sides for all the world to see. This life giving energy is one the most powerful healing medicines on Mother Earth. During this moon we are encouraged to explore our Spiritual essences.”

At Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) on May 5, 6:04PM EDT, the Moon is at 225,659 mi. (56.94 Earth radii). It’s maximum distance of 251,432mi. (63.44 Earth radii) is at apogee on May 17, 2:59PM EDT.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aries

-26.8

11:22PM EDT, 5/7 New 0 Days
Mercury Pisces

0.7

4.0°N, 4:00AM EDT, 5/6 Waning Crescent 27.57 Days
Venus Aries

-3.8

3.2°NW, 10:00AM EDT, 5/7 Waning Crescent 28.82 Days
Mars Pisces

1.1

0.2°N, 10:00PM EDT, 5/4 Waning Crescent 26.32 Days
Jupiter Taurus

-1.8

4.1°NNW, 1:00PM EDT, 5/8 Waxing Crescent 0.57Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.2

0.8°S, 7:00PM EDT, 5/3 Waning Crescent 25.19 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.2

0.4°S, 4:00AM EDT, 5/31 Waning Gibbous 23.19 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

3.44°NNW, 8:00AM EDT, 5/8 Waxing Crescent 0.36 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

0.3° S, 3:00PM EDT, 5/4 Waning Crescent 26.03 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

0.02° S, 11:00PM EDT, 5/31 Waning Gibbous 23.98 Days

April Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, April Moon

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Canes Venatici, Bootes, Coma Berenices, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Perseus

  • Comet Journals

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is an enormous periodic comet which visits every 71 years. It is easily visible in binoculars and may be seen with the naked eye in dark skies at 4th-5th magnitude as it moves through Taurus in March. Perihelion passage is April 21. It may be visible near the Sun during the total solar eclipse on the 8th. Closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) is on June 2.
Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period 9th magnitude comet within the summer triangle. Perihelion passage was on February 14, 2024. It was brightest on March 1 and passed perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14th. After passing Sagitta on April 1, it will move northward in Cygnus.

  • Mars Landers

The search for current or pre-existing life on Mars is limited to chemical signatures and evidence for liquid water in suitable environments. The rovers are not capable of collecting evidence of current or fossil microorganisms as they would be too small to image with the rover cameras. The rovers have collected copious chemical and physical evidence for ancient liquid water with pH, temperature and elemental composition appropriate for life. Current conditions appear to limit available water to polar ice caps and frozen ground water. Geological evidence indicates that liquid water once flowed on the surface and collected in ponds, lakes, and possibly even oceans. Geochemical evidence reveals that conditions existed that were favorable for all sorts of aerobic and anaerobic organisms including prokaryotic bacteria, archaebacteria, and more advanced eukaryotes. If present, fossil and modern microorganisms await future missions with rovers capable of microscopic observations. Alternatively, they may be found when the rocks recently collected and stockpiled are returned to Earth.

  • Meteor Showers

April meteor showers will be subdued by glare from the full moon. The Lyrids are a major shower best seen in the predawn hours high in the southeastern sky when the waxing gibbous Moon is setting in the west. The Pi Puppies are a minor shower visible in southern hemisphere skies.
Lyrids: April 21-22, 2-4AM. Active Apr. 16-25. Radiant 18h04m +34°. ZHR up to 90. 49 km/sec. Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comets Thatcher.

  • Planet Plottings

A spectacular total solar eclipse occurs on April 8 for states along a strip from Texas to Maine. There will not be another in the continental USA for the next 20 years. Timing of the total eclipse ranges from about 1:30PM CDT in Texas to slightly after 3:00PM in Detroit and just before 3:30PM EDT in northeastern USA.
Night skies provide 5 close approaches of the planets. In the beginning of the month after sunset, western skies display Mercury (-1.8 to 1.2) in Pisces, with Jupiter (-1.9) and Uranus (5.8) in Aries. On the 1st, Mercury sets 45 minutes after the Sun, Jupiter follows 40 minutes later, and Uranus sets 13 minutes later. Jupiter moves to within less than a degree of Uranus on the 20th. The waxing crescent Moon passes Mercury on the 8th, then circuits by Jupiter and Uranus on the 10th.
Morning planets include Venus (-3.8) in Aquarius, Pisces, and Aries, Neptune (-8.0 to 7.9) in Pisces, Mars (1.2 to 1.1) in Aquarius and Pisces, and Saturn (1.1 to 1.2) in Aquarius. Venus approaches within less than a degree of Neptune on the 3rd, Mars links up with Saturn on the 10th and Neptune on the 28th. On the 1st, Mars rises over 2 hours before the Sun and Saturn follows 25 minutes later. Venus makes its appearance after another 42 minutes and after inferior conjunction on the 11th, Mercury starts rising before the Sun as it moves into morning skies and is 0.2° from Venus on the 18th.
The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Mars on the 5th, Saturn on the 6th, then Neptune and Venus on the 7th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Pisces, Aries

-26.5

New Moon

2:21PM EDT

4/8

Mercury

Pisces

1.8 to 1.2

Inferior conjunction

7:00PM EDT

4/11

Mercury

Pisces

1.8 to 1.2

Venus, 0.2°S

7:00PM EDT

4/18

Venus

Aquarius, Pisces, Aries

-3.8

Neptune, 0.2°N

10:00AM EDT

4/3

Venus

Aquarius, Pisces, Aries

-3.8

Mercury, 0.2°N

7:00PM EDT

4/18

Mars

Aquarius – Pisces

1.2 to 1.1

Saturn, 0.5°S

11:00PM EDT

4/10

Mars

Aquarius – Pisces

1.2 to 1.1

Neptune, 0.4°N

Midnight EDT

4/28

Jupiter

Aries – Taurus

-1.9

Uranus, 0.5°N

4:00AM EDT

4/20

Saturn

Aquarius

1.1 to 1.2

Mars, 0.5°N

11:00PM EDT

4/10

Uranus

Aries

5.8

Jupiter, 0.5°S

4:00AM EDT

4/20

Neptune

Pisces

8.0 to 7.9

Venus, 0.2°S

10:00AM EDT

4/3

Neptune

Pisces

8.0 to 7.9

Mars, 0.4°S

Midnight EDT

4/28

  • April Moon 

April’s New Moon is in Aquarius on the 8th at 2:21PM EDT. It coincides with the total solar eclipse which can be observed in the early afternoon along a 100+ wide strip stretching from Texas to Maine in the USA. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1253 which ends 29.38 days later with the New Moon of May in Pisces on the 7th at 11:22PM EDT. 

The Full Moon on the 23rd occurs at 7:29PM EDT in Virgo. It is called the Egg, Grass, Easter, or Paschal Moon. Colonial Americans named it the “Planter’s Moon”. To the Celts it was the “Crowing Moon”, and the Chinese refer to it as the “Peony Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Seed Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Boiling Sap Moon” (Iskigamizige-giizis in the eastern dialect and Skigamizige-giizis in the western dialect). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. “The fourth moon of Creation is the Sucker Moon, when sucker goes to the Spirit World in order to receive cleansing techniques for this world. When it returns to this realm, it purifies a path for the Spirits and cleanses all our water beings. During this time we can learn to become healed healers.” 

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aquarius

-26.8

2:21PM EDT, 4/8 New 0 Days
Mercury Pisces

4.4

0.7°N, 10:39PM EDT, 4/8 Waxing Crescent 0.40 Days
Venus Pisces

-3.8

0.4°N, 1:00PM EDT, 4/7 Waning Crescent 28.33 Days
Mars Aquarius

1.2

2.0°S, Midnight EDT, 4/5 Waning Crescent 25.79 Days
Jupiter Aries

-1.9

4.0°N, 5:00PM EDT, 4/10 Waxing Crescent 2.11 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.1

1.2°S, 5:00AM EDT, 4/6 Waning Crescent 27.00 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

4.0°N, 8:00PM EDT, 4/10 Waxing Crescent 2.24 Days
Neptune Pisces

8.0

0.4° S, 4:00AM EDT, 4/7 Waning Crescent 27.96 Days

March Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, March Moon

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Coma Berenices, Canes Venatici, Bootes, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus

Comet Journals

Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period 9th magnitude comet passing through Ophiuchus and Serpens Cauda, and reaching Aquila in March. Perihelion passage was on February 14, 2024. It will be brightest on March 1. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14th, then leaves for parts unknown.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinsham 1 2023, a short period (6.67 years) comet at 8th magnitude between Leo and Virgo passed through perihelion on Christmas and was closest to Earth on Dec 30.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is an enormous periodic comet which visits every 71 years. It is approaching naked eye visibility at 5th magnitude as it moves through Andromeda, Pisces, Aries, and into Taurus in March. Perihelion passage is April 21. It may be visible near the Sun during the total solar eclipse on the 8th. Closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) is on June 2.

Mars Landers

After 1000 days, the Perseverance Rover has completed its mission of exploration of the river delta formed on the edge of Jezero Crater when, 3.7 billion years ago, a large river breached the crater’s rim, flooded the crater, and filed it with a 100 foot deep lake.

The rover has moved onward, away from its faithful companion, Ingenuity, the little helicopter lying on the surface with a broken blade. Perseverance is currently exploring the inner margin of the crater and obtained bio-relevant carbonate and iron phosphate rocks which may reveal the ancient interaction between atmosphere, surface water, and possible ancient life.

The next phase of exploration is to continue up the valley of the river which formed the delta to the inlet breaking through the crater rim. From there, mission scientist plan an ascent out of the river valley and beyond the rim onto the surrounding upland which is comprised of much more ancient rocks. Scientists suspect that ancient Martian groundwater in this region interacted with rocks in a way that created an environment completely different from what the rover has explored so far.

Meteor Showers

The Virginids are a minor shower at the end of the month with up to 5 meteors per hour in dark skies. Virginids: March – early April, 2-4AM. Active Jan. 25-Apr. 15. Radiant 13h00m +04°(Mar 25). ZHR up to 5. 30 km/sec. Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Asteroid 1998 SJ 70.

Planet Plottings

Mars (1.3 to 1.2) and Venus (-3.8) in Capricornus and Aquarius, and Saturn (1.0 to 1.1) in Aquarius rise in eastern skies before the Sun in March. Following sunset, western skies display Mercury (-1.6 to 1.3) in Aquarius and Pisces, Jupiter (-2.0 to -1.9) in Aries, Uranus (5.8) in Aries, and Neptune (8.0) in Pisces. Mars rises an hour and 45 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and Venus rises 14 minutes later. Venus, Mars, and Saturn appear near the waning crescent Moon on the 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively.

On the 21st, Venus is only 0.3° from Saturn. Neptune, buried in the glare of sunset all month, is within a degree of Mercury on the 8th, and reaches conjunction with the Sun on March 17. On the 1st, as Mercury sets only 5 minutes after the Sun. It ascends higher each evening, appearing near the waxing crescent Moon on the 10th. By mid month it sets 49 minutes after the Sun and is easily visible in the western evening sky. It reaches greatest eastern elongation when it is 19° from the Sun on the 24th.

Jupiter blazes in the western sky, setting about a half hour before much dimmer Uranus. The waxing crescent Moon passes Jupiter on the 13th, and Uranus on the 14th. The lengths of daylight and darkness are equal on the 19th when the Spring Equinox is celebrated. The precise lineup of Earth, the Sun, and the constellation Pisces occurs at 11:06PM EDT despite the claims of astrological horoscopes which maintain that Aries is still in line as it was 2000 years ago. To bad that they forgot about the wobbling of Earth’s axis which has moved the equinoxes place in our orbit, making the horoscopes 2000 years out of date.

But hey, what is 2 millennia +/- amongst friends?

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Capricornus, Aquarius

-26.5

New Moon

5:00AM EDT

3/10

Mercury

Aquarius, Pisces

-1.6 to -1.3

Max East Elongation

7:00PM EDT

3/24

Venus

Capricornus, Aquarius

-3.8

Saturn, 0.3°S

10:00PM EDT

3/21

Mars

Capricornus, Aquarius

1.3 to 1.2

Jupiter

Aries

-2.0 to -1.9

Saturn

Aquarius

1.0 to 1.1

Venus, 0.3°N

10:00PM EDT

3/21
Uranus

Aries

5.8

Neptune

Pisces

8.0

Solar Conjunction

7:00AM EDT

3/17

March Moon

The New Moon of March is in Aquarius on the 10th at 5:00AM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1252 which ends 29.46 days later with the New Moon of April in Pisces on the 8th at 2:23PM EDT. The Full Moon on the 25th occurs at 3:00AM EDT in Virgo. It is called the Lenten, Sap, Crow, or Worm Moon. Colonial Americans named it the “Fish Moon”. To the Celts it was the “Moon of Winds”, and the Chinese refer to it as the “Sleepy Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Chaste Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon).

Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. The third moon of Creation is Sugar or Worm Moon. “As the maple sap begins to run, we learn of one of the main medicines given to the Anishnabe which balances our blood, and heals us. During this time, we are encouraged to balance our lives as we would our blood sugar levels, by using Divine Law.”

Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 10th when the Moon is at 221,764 mi. (56.25 Earth radii) at 3:04AM EST. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on March 23 at 11:45AM EDT when the Moon’s distance is 252,460 mi. (64.00 Earth radii).
The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Mars on the 7th, Venus on the 8th, and Saturn on the 9th. The waxing crescent passes Neptune and Mercury on the 10th, Jupiter on the 13th, and Uranus on the 14th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aquarius

-26.8

5:00AM EDT, 3/10 New 0 Days
Mercury Pisces

-1.3

0.7°N, 9:31PM EDT, 3/10 Waxing Crescent 0.69 Days
Venus Capricornus

-3.8

3.0°S, Noon EST, 3/8 Waning Crescent 27.33 Days
Mars Capricornus

1.2

4.0°S, Midnight EST, 3/7 Waning Crescent 26.83 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.0

4.0°N, 3:00AM EDT, 3/13 Waxing Crescent 3.67 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.0

1.0°N, 1:41PM EDT, 3/9 Waning Crescent 28.82 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

3.0°N, 9:00PM EDT, 3/14 Waxing Crescent 4.13 Days
Neptune Pisces

8.0

0.1° S, 4:30PM EDT, 3/10 Waxing Crescent 0.48 Days

 

February Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, February Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Aries, Pisces

Comet Journals 

Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period 9th magnitude comet in Scorpius which will reach perihelion on February 14, 2024 at about 8th magnitude and will be brightest on March 1 in Serpens Cauda. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14 then heads back into outer space as in leaves the Solar System.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinsham 1 2023, a short period (6.67 years) comet at 8th magnitude in Virgo, passed through perihelion on Christmas and was closest to Earth on Dec 30. It will exit Virgo by late summer.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is an enormous periodic comet which visits every 71 years. It is at 7th magnitude moving slowly through Cygnus. Perihelion passage is April 21. It may be visible near the Sun during the total eclipse on the 8th. Closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) is on June 2 when it may reach naked eye visibility.

Mars Landers

After 71 successful flights during its almost 1000 days on Mars, Ingenuity, the helicopter accompanying and scouting for the Perseverance Rover, temporarily lost radio contact with the rover during a recent flight. Communication was re-established and ground controllers received imagery showing damage to Ingenuity’s rotor blade, preventing further flight. Meanwhile, the rover completed exploration of the river delta on the edge of Jezero Crater. The crater, formed by impact almost 4 billion years ago, is floored by igneous rock crystallized from magma and/or lava. Over 100’s of millions of years, the igneous rock was covered by younger river deposits which, in turn, are beneath even younger salt rich mudstones deposited in a lake possibly exceeding a depth of 100 feet and width of 22 miles. The river delta on the edge of the crater is covered by boulders carried from outside the crater by raging torrents. The chemistry of the rocks and sediments in the crater and the collected 23 rock samples reveals environmental conditions favorable for life for an extended length of time. No direct fossil evidence for life was found.

Meteor Showers

February has no significant meteor showers. The Delta Leonids are a minor shower on the 15th typically displaying only 2 meteors per hour in dark skies. With the scarcity of meteor showers, dark sky locations may reveal a cone of brighter sky extending upward from the sunset direction. This “zodiacal light” is sunlight reflected by debris scattered along our orbit from ancient comet and asteroid passages and possibly even including debris left over from the primeval collision that created the Moon. Reflection from these remnants were probably viewed by mammoths & saber tooth tigers, dinosaurs, and even the first lobe-finned fish departing the oceans for a future life on the land!

Planet Plottings

Inner rocky terrestrial planets dominate the eastern sky in predawn hours in February. Mercury (-0.2 to -1.6) moves through Sagittarius, Capricornus, and Aquarius; Venus (-3.9 to  -3.8) and Mars (1.3) visit Sagittarius and Capricornus. Following sunset, western skies display the outer gas giants, Jupiter (-2.2 to -2.0) in Aries, Saturn (1.0) in Aquarius, Uranus (5.7 to 5.8) in  Aries, and Neptune (7.9 to 8.0) in Pisces. 

In February, Mercury, Mars, and Venus are diving eastward into the glow of sunrise with Mercury leading the way. Venus moves faster than Mars during the month, passing it on the 22nd. On the 1st, Venus rises 2 hours before the Sun, trailed by Mars and Mercury, respectively 45 minutes and an hour later. By month’s end, Mars will rise 1 hour, 45 minutes before the Sun, with Venus 12 minutes later. Mercury rises with the Sun when reaching solar conjunction on the 28th. Saturn and Neptune are early evening planets in the western sky. Saturn sets about an hour after the Sun and Neptune follows a little over an hour later. Uranus and Jupiter are high in the southwestern sky after sunset

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Capricornus

-26.5

New Moon

5:59PM EST

2/9

Mercury

Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius

-0.2 to -1.6

Superior Conjunction

4:00AM EST

2/28

Venus

Sagittarius, Capricornus

-3.9 to -3.8

Mars, 0.6°S

11:00AM EST

2/22

Mars

Sagittarius, Capricornus

1.3

Venus, 0.6°N

11:00AM EST

2/22

Jupiter

Aries

-2.2 to -2.0

Saturn

Aquarius

1.0

Solar Conjunction

4:00PM EST 2/28
Uranus

Aries

5.7 to 5.8

Neptune

Pisces

7.9 to 8.0

  • February Moon

February’s New Moon is in Aquarius on the 9th at 5:59PM EST. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1251 which ends 29.46 days later with the New Moon of March in Aquarius on the 10th at 5:01AM EST. 

The Full Moon on the 24th occurs at 7:31AM EST in Leo. It is called the Snow, Hunger, or Wolf Moon. Colonial Americans named it the “Trapper’s Moon”. To the Celts it was the “Ice Moon”, and the Chinese refer to it as the “Budding Moon”. Medieval English thought of it as the “Storm Moon”, and the Anishinaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) people of northern Michigan recognize it as “Namebini-giizis” (Suckerfish Moon). Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people respectively recognize the 2nd Moon of the year as “Mkwa-giizis” (Bear Moon) in the eastern dialect and Namebini-giizis” (Suckerfish Moon) in the western dialect. Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the 13 Grandmother Moons. “The second moon of Creation is Bear Moon, when we honour the vision quest that it began in the fall. During this time, we discover how to see beyond reality and to communicate through energy rather than sound.”

Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 10th when the Moon is at 222,506 mi. (56.46 Earth radii) at 1:53PM EST. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on February 25 at 9:49AM EST when the Moon’s distance is 252,470 mi. (64.07 Earth radii).                                                       

The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Venus on the 7th, and Mars and Mercury on the 8th. The waxing crescent passes Saturn on the 10th, Neptune on the 12th, and Jupiter and Uranus on the 15th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Aquarius

-26.8

5:59PM EST, 2/9 New 0 Days
Mercury Capricornus

-0.4

3.0°S, 5:20PM EST, 2/8 Waning Crescent 28.43 Days
Venus Sagittarius

-3.8

5.0°S, 2:00PM EST, 2/7 Waning Crescent 26.29 Days
Mars Sagittarius

1.3

4.0°S, 2:00AM EST, 2/8 Waning Crescent 27.79 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.1

3.0°N, 3:00AM EST, 2/15 Waxing Crescent 5.38 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.0

1.8°S, 8:00PM EST, 2/10 Waxing Crescent 1.08 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

3.0°N, 9:00PM EST, 2/15 Waxing Crescent 6.13 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

0.7° S, 2:00AM EST, 2/12 Waxing Crescent 2.33 Days

January Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, January Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries

Comet Journals 

Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period 9th magnitude comet in Lupus. It will move into Scorpius by the 31st and will reach perihelion on February 14, 2024 at about 7th magnitude and will be brightest on March 1 in Serpens Cauda. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14 then heads back into outer space as in leaves the Solar System.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinsham 1 2023, a short period (6.67 years) comet at 7th magnitude in Virgo, passed through perihelion on Christmas and was closest to Earth on Dec 30. It will exit Virgo by late summer.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks (2024) is at 7th magnitude in Cygnus. Perihelion passage is April 21, with closest approach to Earth at 1.55 AU (232 million km) on June 2.

Mars Landers

A major Martian climate transition is proposed in the November 23, 2023 issue of Nature Astronomy “Zhang, L., Li, C., Zhang, J. et al. Buried palaeo-polygonal terrain detected underneath Utopia Planitia on Mars by the Zhurong radar. Nat Astron (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-023-02117-3.” 

At the top of ancient layers formed during a long warm and wet era on Mars, China’s Zhurong rover found polygonal cracks at a depth of 35 meters below Utopia Planitia on Mars with ground penetrating radar. The article indicates that the cracks appear to be remnants of large scale versions of the patterned ground formed from freeze/thaw conditions found in permafrost in periglacial regions on Earth. Such extremely large cracks may have resulted from conditions more extreme than on Earth and since they were found at the low latitude of 25°N, the axial tilt of Mars may have approached 40 degrees during their formation about 3 billion years ago! The overlying 35 meter layers deposited since the polygons were formed appear to represent a significant change in climate associated with more moderate conditions characterized by short glacial events with dry and arid intervals separated by brief warmer and wetter episodes.

Meteor Showers

Quadrantid shower peaks in northeastern skies on the 4th, producing up to 25 meteors per hour in dark skies before dawn. Glare from the waning crescent Moon in the west should not interfere with views of the meteors and fireballs

January 4,, 2-4AM: Quadrantids. Active Jan. 1 – 5, Radiant 15h20m +49°. ZHR 60 to 120. 41 km/sec. Favorable, Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: asteroid known as 2003 EH1 .

Planet Plottings

In the predawn hours in January, observers peer eastward toward the inner planets, Mercury (0.8 to -2.1) in Ophiuchus, Venus (-3.9) in Scorpius, and Mars (1.4 to 1.3) in Sagittarius. In the evening, we turn our heads westward toward the outer giant planets, Jupiter (-2.4 to -2.2) in Aries, Saturn (0.9 to 1.0) in Aquarius, Uranus (5.7) in Aries, and Neptune (7.9) in Pisces.

On the 1st, Venus rises after 5:00AM, followed by Mercury and Mars before sunrise. Venus moves from Scorpius into Ophiuchus on the 6th, then is passed by the waning crescent Moon on the 8th. It joins Mercury and Mars in Sagittarius on the 20th. Mercury will be buried in the glow of sunrise for the first week of January after which the waning crescent Moon passes by on the 9th. Mercury then moves closer to Venus as it approaches greatest western elongation (24°) from the Sun on the 12th. The waning Crescent Moon passes Mars in the glow of sunrise on the 10th, then Mars rises above the Suns’s glow on the 19th when it appears on the horizon a hand’s width east of Mercury before sunrise. Mercury and Mars appear to get closer until the 27th when they are only 0.2° apart.

Saturn and Neptune are early evening planets in the western sky. Saturn sets first and Neptune follows about an hour later. The waxing crescent Moon passes Saturn on the 14th and Neptune on the 15th. Uranus and Jupiter are high in the South after sunset and set before midnight. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Jupiter on the 18th and Uranus on the 19th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun Libra, Scorpius

-26.5

New Moon

6:57AM EST

1/11

Mercury Ophiuchus

0.5

Max West Elongation

10:00AM EST

1/12

Mercury Sagittarius

-0.2

Mars, 0.2°S

11:00AM EST

1/27

Venus Scorpius – Sagittarius

-3.9

Mars Sagittarius

1.4 to 1.3

Mercury, 0.2°N

11:00AM EST

1/27

Jupiter Aries

-2.4 to -2.2

Saturn Aquarius

0.9 to 1.0

Uranus Aries

5.7

Neptune Pisces

7.9

  • January Moon

January’s New Moon is in Sagittarius on the 11th at 6:57AM EST. It marks the start of Lunation 1250 which ends 29.52 days later with the New Moon of February in Sagittarius on the 9th at 6:00PM EST. 

The Full Moon on the 25th occurs at 12:54PM EST in Cancer. It is called the Moon after Yule or Old Moon. It was called the Wolf Moon in Medieval England. For Celts, it was the Quiet Moon and, in China, it is the Holiday Moon. Colonial Americans called it the Winter Moon. 

Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people respectively recognize the 1st Moon of the year as “Manidoo-Giizisoons” (Spirit Moon) in the eastern dialect and “Gichimanidoo-giizis” (Great Spirit Moon) in the western dialect. Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of Spirit Moon, the first moon of Creation which is manifested through the Northern Lights. It is a time to honour the silence and realize our place within all of Great Mystery’s creatures.

Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on January 1 at 10:28AM EST when the Moon’s distance is 251,599 mi. (63.41 Earth radii). A second Lunar Apogee is on January 29 at 3:14AM EST when the Moon’s distance is 252,138 mi. (63.42 Earth radii). Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance)  is on the 13th when the Moon is at 225,102 mi. (57.52 Earth radii) at 5:36AM EST.                                                                                                

The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Venus on the 8th, Mercury on the 9th and Mars on the 10th. The waxing crescent passes Saturn on the 14th, and Neptune on the 15th. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Jupiter on the 18th, and Uranus on the 19th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Sagittarius

-26.8

6:57AM EST, 1/11 New 0 Days
Mercury Ophiuchus

-0.1

7.0°S, 2:00PM EST, 1/9 Waning Crescent 27.52 Days
Venus Ophiuchus

-3.9

6.0°S, 3:00PM EST, 1/8 Waning Crescent 26.85 Days
Mars Sagittarius

1.4

4.0°S, 4:00AM EST, 1/10 Waning Crescent 28.40 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.3

3.0°N, 4:00PM EST, 1/18 Waxing Gibbous 7.38 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.0

2.0°S, 5:00AM EST, 1/14 Waxing Crescent 2.92 Days
Uranus Aries

5.7

3.0°N, 3:00PM EST, 1/19 Waxing Gibbous 8.33 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

0.9° S, 3:00PM EST, 1/15 Waxing Crescent 4.33 Days

December Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, December Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cygnus, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Gemini, Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Taurus

Comet Journals 

Comet C/2021 S3 (Panstarrs) is a long period comet orbiting through Centaurus in southern hemisphere skies and will move northward in late winter (just like some people I know). It will reach perihelion on February 14, 2024 at about 7th magnitude and will be brightest on March 1 in Serpens Cauda. It passes perigee (closest to Earth) on March 14 then heads back home as in leaves the Solar System.

Comet 62P/Tsuchinsham 1 2023, a short period (6.67 years) comet at 9th magnitude in Leo, may reach 7th magnitude at perihelion on Christmas. After moving into Virgo in January, it will be closest to Earth on the 30th. 

Mars Landers

In the October 18th Smithsonian magazine, Shi En Kim summarized current understanding of Martian magnetic fields as follows: “From their high perches above Martian ground, the MAVEN and Mars Global Surveyor satellites confirmed that Mars has no planetary magnetic dipole like Earth. However, mapping revealed pockets of regional magnetic fields stamped all over the crust. The magnetic mosaic comes from volcanic rocks at the surface that carry traces of Mars’s remnant magnetic field.

A planet’s magnetic shield comes from the churning of the sphere’s interior. Melt in the core consisting of swirling iron and nickel generates an electric current, which in turn powers a planet-sized electromagnet. Invisible magnetic field lines envelop most planets in the solar system, including Earth. Being a smaller planet, Mars cooled off much sooner than Earth did, and its roiling innards quietened. With that went Mars’s global magnetosphere. But metals near the planet’s surface captured a snapshot of the field as they solidified, and they have retained their magnetic imprint.

These scattered magnetic fields on the crust lead to spectacular auroras that look nothing like Earth’s. Auroras are caused by charged particles that rain down from the sun into the atmosphere. On Earth, these ghostly glows congregate at the poles, as the magnetic field is strongest there. But the auroras on Mars can shimmy close to the equator, since no planetary field confines them. Photographs taken by the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter in 2021 show that the heavenly displays can take on all kinds of serpentine shapes.

Meteor Showers

December northern hemisphere meteor showers are the Chi Orionids, Geminids, Coma Berenicids, and the Ursids. The Chi Orionids, Coma Berenicids, and Ursids are minor showers contending with a bright gibbous Moon. The Geminid shower is one of the very best in 2023 and has no competition from the 2 day old Moon. Best viewing is after midnight, the peak hour of 2:00 AM EST, and before dawn when Earth orbits head first into the river of comet debris.

December 14, 2-4AM: Geminids. Active Dec. 7 – 17. Radiant 7h28m +33°. ZHR up to 120. 35 km/sec. Favorable, Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon 

December 22, 4AM: Ursids. Active Dec. 17 – 26. Radiant 14h28m +76°. ZHR 5-50. 33 km/sec. Unfavorable – Waxing Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comet 8P/Tuttle.

Planet Plottings

In early December, Venus (-4.2 to -4.1) is a morning planet rising about 4:00AM. Virgo’s 1st magnitude star, blue giant Spica, is above and south of Venus. Arcturus in Bootes is the bright star above and north. On the 11th, Venus moves from Virgo into Libra. The separation between Spica in Virgo and Venus increases throughout December as the planet appears to approach the red supergiant Antares in Scorpius.

Mercury (-0.4 to +0.9) in Sagittarius and Ophiuchus is just above the west-southwest horizon after sunset on the 1st. After rising higher each night until reaching greatest eastern elongation of 21 degrees on the 4th, it dims as it descends into the glow of sunset. Saturn (0.9) in Aquarius and Neptune (7.8 to 7.9) in Pisces are also evening planets which are higher in the Southwest and South respectively. The latter sets after midnight. Jupiter (-2.8 to -2.5) and Uranus (5.6 to 5.7) in Aries were at opposition last month and are diminishing in brightness. Jupiter is still an impressive sight in the evening sky and, like Uranus, is visible almost all night long. Mars is not visible in December, solar conjunction was on November 18 and the planet is still lost in the Sun’s glare.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun Libra, Scorpius

-26.5

New Moon

6:32PM EST

12/12

Mercury Sagittarius, Ophiuchus

-0.4 to +0.9

Inferior Conjunction

9:00AM EST

12/4

Venus Virgo, Libra

-4.1 to -4.0

Mars Scorpius, Ophiuchus

1.4

Jupiter Aries

-2.8 to -2.5

Saturn Aquarius

0.9

Uranus Aries

5.6 to 5.7

Neptune Pisces

7.8 to 7.9

  • December Moon

December’s New Moon is in Scorpius on the 12th at 6:32PM EST. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1249 which ends 29.59 days later with the New Moon of January in Sagittarius on the 11th at 6:58AM EST. 

The Full Moon on the 26th occurs at 7:33PM EST in Gemini, five days after the Winter Solstice at 10:27PM EST on the 21st. It is called the Moon before Yule. It was called the Oak Moon in Medieval England. For Celts, it was the Cold Moon and, in China, it is the Bitter Moon. Colonial Americans called it the Christmas Moon. 

Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people respectively recognize the 12th Moon of the year as “Manidoo-Giizisoons” (Little Spirit Moon). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of the twelfth moon of Creation as the Little Spirit Moon, a time of healing. By receiving both vision of the spirits and good health, we may walk the Red Road with purest intentions, and we can share this most positive energy with our families and friends for the good of all.

Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on December 4 at 1:42PM EST when the Moon’s distance is 251,249 mi. (63.40 Earth radii). Lunar perigee (minimum lunar distance) is on the 16th when the Moon is at 228,603 mi. (57.68 Earth radii) at 1:53PM EST.                                                                                                

The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Venus on the 9th and Mars on the 12th. The waxing crescent passes Mercury on the 13th, Saturn on the 17th, and Neptune on the 19th. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Jupiter on the 22nd, and Uranus on the 23rd, two days after the December solstice (12/21, 10:27PM EST).

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Ophiuchus

-26.8

6:31PM EST, 12/12 New 0 Days
Mercury Sagittarius

0.6

4.0°S, Midnight EST, 12/13 Waxing Crescent 0.61 Days
Venus Virgo

-4.0

4.0°S, Noon EST, 12/9 Waning Crescent 26.31 Days
Mars Ophiuchus

1.4

3.5°S, 5:00AM EST, 12/12 Waning Crescent 29.52 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.5

3.0°N, 9:00AM EST, 12/22 Waxing Gibbous 9.60 Days
Saturn Aquarius

0.9

2.0°S, 5:00PM EST, 12/17 Waxing Crescent 4.94 Days
Uranus Aries

5.7

3.0°N, 10:00AM EST, 12/23 Waxing Gibbous 10.65 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

1.3° S, 8:00AM EST, 12/19 Waxing Crescent 8.56 Days

 

November Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, November Moon

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Auriga, Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus

Comet Journals 
Ptolemy, one of the most influential Greek astronomers and geographers of his time, propounded the geocentric theory in a form that prevailed for 1400 years. He was born about 85 AD which was when Comet C/2023 H2 (Lemmon) started its long inward journey to the Sun. The comet recently passed through perihelion on October 29 and was at perigee (closest to Earth) on November 1. It streaks southeasterly from Bootes in the northwestern skies through Capricornus in the 1st three weeks of November after which it drops into southern hemisphere skies. It may reach 7th magnitude during the first two weeks of the month.

Comet 103P/Hartley is a nice sight at 7th to 8th magnitude in larger (50+mm) binoculars, or small (3 to 4in.) diameter telescopes. It is circling counterclockwise below Cancer in November. It was closest to Earth on September 26 and reached perihelion on October 12. It is a regular visitor as it circuits back and forth between the Sun and Jupiter every 6.46 years.

Mars
The Mars Curiosity rover has reached the sulfate bearing layers as it ascends Mt. Sharp in Gale Crater. These layers were formed as the lake (sea?) which once filled the crater dried up. The rovers investigating Martian geologic history have gathered copious evidence that Mars once had conditions favorable for life, will the sulfate layers provide direct evidence for ancient life? The Perseverence rover and its Ingenuity scout are exploring the delta on the edge of Jezero Crater. They ascended the outer edge of the delta, crossed the fine grained sedimentary rocks on the periphery, the coarser grained rocks and boulders closer to the craters edge, and are now approaching the carbonate bearing rocks adjacent to the inner edge of the crater. Carbonates often form by precipitation from lake or sea water, but formation of some carbonate rocks involves the intervention of life forms which are sometimes preserved in the rock as fossils. Both rovers are preparing for when they will be out of communication with Earth during the upcoming solar conjunction.

Meteor Showers
The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the 17th and 18th. It is traditionally one of the better meteor showers of the year, occurring when we orbit through the debris trail from previous passages of Comet 55P/ Tempel-Tuttle. The shower emanates from the tail of Leo which rises about midnight EST. The shower is best viewed long after the waxing crescent Moon has set and slightly before morning twilight when eastern USA is orbiting head first into the trail of comet debris. In 2023, the Alpha Monocerotids may be better. Look to the southern hemisphere skies.

November 18, 4AM: Leonids. Active November 15 – 25. Radiant 10h12m +22°. ZHR 15 to storm. 71 km/sec. favorable – Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet 55P/ Tempel-Tuttle

November 22, 4AM: Alpha Monocerotids. Active November 15 – 25. Radiant 07h48m +01°. ZHR 5-400. 65 km/sec. favorable – Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: ?

Planet Plottings
Venus (-4.2 to -4.1 in Leo and Virgo, and Uranus (+5.6) and Jupiter (-2.8 to -2.7) in Aries are morning planets. Before sunrise on the 1st, Venus rises 4 hours before the Sun and moves from Leo to Virgo on the 3rd. On the 9th, the waning crescent Moon passes Venus at 4:00AM EST. Jupiter and Uranus are at their brightest during their oppositions at 1:00AM EDT on the 3rd and noon EST on the 13th respectively. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Jupiter on the morning of the 25th and Uranus on the afternoon of the 26th.

Uranus and Jupiter are also evening planets in the eastern sky. Neptune (7.8 to 7.9) in Pisces and Saturn (0.7 to 0.9) in Aries are high in the southeast and south. Mercury (-0.7 to -0.4) in Libra, Scorpius, Ophiucus, and Sagittarius is buried in the glow of sunset in early November but may be visible southeast of the waxing crescent Moon on the evening of the 14th. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 20th and Neptune on the 22nd.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Libra, Scorpius

-26.5

New Moon

4:27AM EST

11/13

Mercury

Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius

-0.7 to -0.4

Venus

Leo, Virgo

-4.2 to -4.1

Mars

Libra, Scorpius

1.5 to 1.4

Solar Conjunction

1:00AM EST

11/18

Jupiter

Aries

-2.8 to -2.7

Solar Opposition

1:00AM EDT

11/3

Saturn

Aquarius

0.7 to 0.9

Uranus

Aries

5.6

Solar Opposition

Noon EST

11/13

Neptune

Pisces

7.8 to 7.9

November Moon
The New Moon of November is in Libra on the 13th at 4:27AM EST. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1248 which ends 29.09 days later with the New Moon of December in Sagittarius on the 12th at 6:31PM EST.
The Full Moon on the 27th occurs at 4:16AM EST in Taurus. It is called the Frosty or Beaver Moon. It was called the Snow Moon in Medieval England. For Celts, it was the Dark Moon and, in China, it is the White Moon. Colonial Americans called it the Beaver Moon.
Eastern and western dialect Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people respectively recognize the 11th Moon of the year as “Gashkadino-Giizis or Baashkaakodin-Giizis” (Freezing Over Moon).
Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of November’s Grandmother Moon of Creation: “The eleventh moon of Creation is the Freezing Moon, a time when the Star Nation is closest to us. As every creature being prepares for the coming fasting grounds, we are reminded to prepare ourselves for our spiritual path by learning the sacred teachings and songs that will sustain us.”
Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on November 6 at 4:49PM EST when the Moon’s distance is 251,388 mi. (63.43 Earth radii). Lunar perigee is on the 21st when the Moon is at 229,795 mi. (57.98 Earth radii) at 4:01PM EST.
The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Venus on the 9th. The waxing crescent passes Mars on the 13th and Mercury on the 14th. The waxing gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 20th, Neptune on the 22nd, Jupiter on the 25th, and Uranus on the 26th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun

Libra

-26.8

4:27AM EST, 11/13

New

0 Days

Mercury

Scorpius

-0.4

1.55°S, 9:04AM EST, 11/14

Waxing Crescent

1.19 Days

Venus

Virgo

-4.4

1.0°N, 4:00AM EST, 11/9

Waning Crescent

25.59 Days

Mars

Libra

1.5

2.35°S, 6:18AM EST, 11/13

Waxing Crescent

0.08 Days

Jupiter

Aries

-2.8

3.0°N, 6:00AM EST, 11/25

Waxing Gibbous

12.06 Days

Saturn

Aquarius

0.8

3.0°S, 9:00AM EST, 11/20

Waxing Gibbous

7.19 Days

Uranus

Aries

5.6

3.0°N, 4:00PM EST, 11/26

Waxing Gibbous

13.48 Days

Neptune

Pisces

7.9

1.5° S, 3:00AM EST, 11/22

Waxing Gibbous

8.94 Days

October Skies by Dick Cookman

Highlights:  Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, October Moon 

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cygnus, Aquila, Lyra, Hercules

  • Comet Journals 

Comets C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) was briefly viewed in the glow of the Sun before dawn in the first week of September between Cancer and Leo then moved into evening skies, staying so close to the Sun and horizon that relatively few observers were able to enjoy its beauty as it moved through Leo in the 2nd week, and Virgo in late September before dropping into southern hemisphere skies. It may be an Oort Belt comet and was closest to Earth on September 12. It passed through perihelion on September 18. 

Comet 103P/Hartley is a nice sight at 8th magnitude in larger (50+mm) binoculars, or small (3 to 4in.) diameter telescopes. In early to mid-October it moves from Auriga, through Gemini, into Cancer. It was closest to Earth on September 26 and will reach perihelion on October 12. The green comet has a mile long tail hiding behind it so we see a slightly out of round image with one side showing a tiny bit of the tail.

  • Mars Landers

The Mars Perseverance rover is exploring Jezero Crater and collecting samples of rocks and soil that may preserve signs of ancient life. Those samples have been stowed for future return to Earth. Experiments with the onboard MOXIE instrument have been completed, proving that it can generate oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. The oxygen can be used to combust rocket fuel for the return trip to Earth for future missions, greatly reducing the need to transport oxygen from Earth for that purpose. Returning samples to Earth, would permit far more extensive testing in order to reveal details about the origin of Mars, its ancient history, and modern day conditions which influence formation and evolution of the samples. Mars has abundant CO2, H2O, an other substances which may be utilized for the production of oxygen and other substances, facilitating life support and enabling logistical advances for the eventual visitation and exploration and of Mars by humans.

  • Meteor Showers

October provides the moderate Draconid meteor shower and a better Orionid shower which is more favorable because the Moon sets well before best viewing at 4:00AM.

October 8-9, 11PM: Draconids. Active Oct. 6 – 10. Radiant 17h28m +54°. ZHR 0 to storm. 20 km/sec. Unfavorable, Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner

October 21, 4AM: Orionids. Active October 2 – November 7. Radiant 06h20m +16°. ZHR 20. 66 km/sec. favorable – Waxing Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet 1P/Halley.

  • Planet Plottings

Mercury (-1.0 to -0.7) in Leo, Virgo, and Libra, Venus (-4.4 to -4.2 in Leo, and Uranus (+5.7 to +5.6) and Jupiter (-2.7 to -2.8) in Aries are morning planets. Before sunrise on the 1st, Mercury is low in the sky. By the 5th, it is lost in the Sun’s glare as it approaches superior solar conjunction on the 20th. Venus shines brightly before dawn below Leo throughout the month. It is brightest in early October and highest in the southwestern sky on the 23rd when at greatest western elongation of 46 degrees. Uranus and Jupiter rise in Aries after 8PM EDT and are best viewed when they are high in the southern sky after midnight. As Jupiter approaches solar opposition on November 3, it will get progressively brighter during October. 

Neptune and Saturn rise before sunset and are best viewed in the evening. Although Saturn’s opposition with the Sun was last month, it is still an impressive sight in southern evening skies. Mars is now on the other side of the Sun and is lost to view as it is buried in its glare and approaching solar conjunction on November 18.

A waning gibbous Moon appears to pass Jupiter on the 1st and Uranus on the 2nd. The waning crescent passes Venus on the 10th and Mercury on the 14th. The waxing Crescent passes Mars on the 15th, then the waxing gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 24th, Neptune on the 25th, and Jupiter & Uranus on the 29th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun Virgo

-26.5

New Moon

1:55PM EDT

10/14

Mercury Leo, Virgo, Libra

-1.0 to -0.7

Superior Conjunction

2:00AM EDT

10/20

Venus Leo

-4.4 to -4.2

Max. West Elongation (46 degrees)

7:00PM EDT

10/23

Mars Virgo, Libra

1.7 to 1.5

Jupiter Aries

-2.7 to -2.8

Saturn Aquarius

0.6 to 0.7

Uranus Aries

5.7 to 5.6

Neptune Pisces

7.8

  • October Moon

The New Moon of October is in Virgo on the 14th at 1:55PM EDT. There will be an annular lunar eclipse in the western USA on a line from the southwest coast of Oregon to southeast coast of southern Texas. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1247 which ends 29.68 days later with the New Moon of November in Aquarius on the 13th at 4:26AM EST. 

The Full Moon on the 28th occurs at 4:24PM in Sagittarius. It is called the Hunter’s Moon. It was called the Blood Moon in Medieval England. For Celts, it was the Harvest Moon and, in China, it is the Kindly Moon. The Harvest Moon was in September this year and Colonial Americans called the succeeding full moon the Hunter’s Moon because hunters can easily see and hunt any animals attracted by the produce left behind in the newly harvested fields,

Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the 10th Moon of the year as “Binaakwe-giizis” (Falling Leaves Moon). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of October’s Grandmother Moon of Creation: “The tenth moon of Creation is the Falling Leaves Moon, a time when Mother Earth is honoured with the grandest of colours. As all of Creation makes their offerings to her, we become aware of all the miracles of Creation before us and our spiritual energies are once again awakened.” 

Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on October 9 at 11:42PM EDT when the Moon’s distance is 251,920 mi. (63.57 Earth radii). Lunar perigee is on the 25th when the Moon is at 226,721 mi. (57.21 Earth radii) at 11:02PM EDT. 

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Virgo

-26.8

1:55PM EDT, 10/14 New 0 Days
Mercury Virgo

-1.3

0.65°S, 6:00AM EDT, 10/14 Waning Crescent 29.39 Days
Venus Leo

-4.3

6.0°N, 6:00AM EDT, 10/10 Waning Crescent 25.35 Days
Mars Virgo

1.7

0.94°S, Noon EDT, 10/15 Waxing Crescent 0.92 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.7

3.0°N, 11:00PM EDT, 10/1 Waning Gibbous 17.06 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.8

3.0°N, 4:00AM EDT, 10/29 Waning Gibbous 14.59 Days
Saturn Aquarius

0.7

3.0°S, 4:00AM EDT, 10/24 Waxing Gibbous 9.59 Days
Uranus Aries

5.7

3.0°N, 1:00PM EDT, 10/2 Waning Gibbous 17.64 Days
Uranus Aries

5.6

3.0°N, 10:00PM EDT, 10/29 Waning Gibbous 15.34 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.8

1.5° S, 9:00PM EDT, 10/25 Waxing Gibbous 11.30 Days