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

September Skies by Dick Cookman

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

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

  • Comet Journals 

Comets C/2023 P1 (Nishimura) is at magnitude 6 and could possibly reach naked eye visibility at magnitude 4 or even brighter. It will be best viewed before dawn in the first week of September between Cancer and Leo. It will move through Leo in the 2nd week and Virgo in late September before dropping into southern hemisphere skies. It is a Oort Belt comet and will be closest to Earth on September 12 when it will pass through perihelion on September 18. Comet 103P/Hartley 2 is in Perseus and will be closest to Earth on September 26 and will reach perihelion on October 12. It will pass into and through Auriga in September, Gemini and Cancer in October, then circle through southern hemisphere skies as it leaves the inner solar system and travels beyond Jupiter.

  • Mars Landers

The Mars rovers have been gathering evidence about Mars for more than a quarter century. Scientists on Earth are flooded with data gathered over that time. They have surveyed the information that appears to be most important but are far from comprehensive examination of the tremendous amount of data gathered. It will require decades for the current number of scientists to dig through this data and more is coming in daily. We need a whole lot more scientists, a situation not restricted to planetary science! Curiosity collected evidence of preserved ancient mud cracks on June 20, 2021. Analysis was finally made and the conclusion that the surface of Gale Crater on Mars underwent high frequency wet-dry cycling was published in August of this year in Nature. Data collected by the Insight lander during its 4 year mission was examined and the conclusion that the rotation rate of Mars is slowly speeding up in its rotation rate, possibly due to climatic changes which redistribute H2O globally. The story goes on, we will be mining Mars data for years, deducing its geologic history, life potential, and hints about Earth’s future.

  • Meteor Showers

September hosts the moderate Alpha Aurigid meteor shower and the minor Delta Aurigids and Piscids (9/20). Neither one is very favorable due to lunar glare or relatively scarce meteors.

September 1, 4AM: Alpha Aurigids. Active Aug 25 – September 5. Radiant 05h36m +42°. ZHR 10. 66 km/sec. Unfavorable, Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comet Kiess (C/1911 N1).

September 29, 4AM: Delta Aurigids. Active September 18 – October 10. Radiant 04h00m +47°. ZHR 6. 64 km/sec. Unfavorable –  Full Moon glare. Progenitor: Comet Keiss.

  • Planet Plottings

Mercury (4.9 to -0.9) in Leo, Venus (-4.3 to -4.4) in Cancer and Leo, and Uranus (+5.8) and Jupiter (-2.5 to -2.6) in Aries are morning planets. In mid September, after its inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 6th, Mercury appears right above the eastern horizon below Regulus in Leo before sunrise. During the next week it moves higher in the sky until reaching greatest western elongation from the Sun (17.9°) on the 22nd, when Mercury presents its best morning apparition of 2023 slightly less than 18 hours before the Autumn Equinox at 2:50AM EDT on the 23rd, Venus shines brightly before dawn above Regulus throughout the month. It is brightest at -4.8 on the 9th. Uranus and Jupiter rise in Aries about 10PM EDT and are best viewed when they are high in the southern sky before dawn. Neptune rises at sunset and sets at sunrise on the19th when it reaches Opposition with the Sun  Saturn is low in the eastern sky after sunset and is best viewed when it is high in the southern sky around midnight. It was brightest when at Opposition on August 27, and presents its most stunning apparition in early September. Mars is hard to find low in the western sky in the early evening and rapidly drops into the glow of sunset.

A waning gibbous Moon appears to pass Neptune on the 1st, Jupiter on the 4th, and Uranus on the 5th. The waning crescent passes Venus on the 11th and Mercury on the 13. The waxing Crescent passes Mars on the 16th, then the waxing gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 26th and Neptune on the 28th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Leo, Virgo

-26.5

New Moon

9:40PM EDT

9/14

Mercury

Leo

4.9

Inferior Conjunction

7:00AM EDT

9/6

Mercury

Leo

-0.3

Max. West Elongation

9:00AM EDT

9/22

Venus

Cancer, Leo

-4.3 to -4.8 to -4.4

Mars

Leo, Virgo

1.8 to 1.7

Jupiter

Aries

-2.5 to -2.6

Saturn

Aquarius

+0.4 to +0.6

Uranus

Aries

5.7

Neptune

Pisces

7.8

Opposition

7:00AM EDT

9/19

  • September Moon

September’s New Moon is at the boundary of Leo and Virgo on the 14th at 9:40PM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1246 which ends 29.58 days later with the New Moon of October in Aquarius on the 14th at 1:55PM EDT. The Full Moon in September is a “Supermoon” which occurs 32 hours 59 minutes after lunar perigee (when the Moon is closest to Earth in its orbit and appears unusually large). The Full Moon on the 29th occurs at 5:58AM in Pisces. It is called the Fruit Moon. It occurs nearer to the Sept. 23rd Autumnal Equinox than its October successor, so it is defined as the “Harvest Moon”. It was called the “Barley Moon” in Medieval England and for Celts it was the “Singing Moon”. In China, it is the “Chrysanthemum Moon” and Colonial Americans called it “Harvest Moon” due to the low angle the rising Moon makes with the horizon, lighting up the farmers fields for a harvesting well into the evening. Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the 9th Moon of the year as “Waatebagaa-giizis” (Leaves Turning Moon). Ontario’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of September’s Grandmother Moon of Creation: “The ninth moon of Creation is the Corn Moon, during which time we learn about the cycle of life. Each cob of corn has thirteen rows of multicoloured seeds which represent all the spirits waiting to begin their Earth Walk. These will be the future generations for whom we must prepare.” 

Lunar Apogee (max. lunar distance) is on September 12 at 11:43AM EDT. The Moon’s distance is 252,457 mi. (63.70 Earth radii). Perigee is on the 27th at 8:59PM EDT. The Moon is at 223,639 mi. (56.43 Earth radii).  

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Leo, Virgo

-26.5

9:40PM EDT, 9/14 New 0 Days
Mercury Leo

1.9

5.4°N, 8:00PM EDT, 9/13 Waning Crescent 28.6 Days
Venus Cancer

-4.4

11.0°N, 9:00AM EDT, 9/11 Waning Crescent 26.14 Days
Mars Virgo

1.7

0.7°N, 3:00PM EDT, 9/16 Waxing Crescent 1.72 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.5

3.0°N, 4:00PM EDT, 9/4 Waning Gibbous 19.43 Days
Saturn Aquarius

0.5

3.0°S, 9:00PM EDT, 9/26 Waxing Gibbous 11.97 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

3.0°N, 9:00PM EDT, 9/5 Waning Gibbous 20.64 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.8

1.4° S, 3:00AM EDT, 9/1 Waning Gibbous 15.89 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.8

1.4° S, 1:00PM EDT, 9/28 Waxing Gibbous 13.64 Days

August Skies by Dick Cookman

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

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

  • Comet Journals 

Comets C/2023 E1 (ATLAS) sails through Cepheus, Cygnus, and Pegasus at 10/9th magnitude in August. It passed perihelion on July 1 and be closest to Earth on August 18. C/2021 T4 Lemmon is an Oort Belt comet. It is in Taurus and was closest to Earth on July 20 and passed perihelion on the 31st. It will enter southern hemisphere skies in Eridanus and move eastward into Çetus in August.

  • Mars Landers

Olympus Mons, 12.5 miles high, located on the Tharsis Rise on Mars, a volcanic province larger than Arizona, it is the largest volcano in the solar system. Most of it was formed over 2.5 billion years ago, but more recent activity is suspected. Hilldenbrand, et al suggests: “Conspicuous slope breaks at the top of the main basal escarpment surrounding Olympus Mons are here interpreted as paleo-shorelines around a former volcanic island. Similar features at Alba Mons further support the existence of an early ocean occupying the northern plains of Mars along the NW edge of the Tharsis region. The proposed shorelines stand much higher than previously reported late Noachian sea levels, suggesting later high-magnitude regional uplift in response to deep internal forcing….” (Hilldenbrand et al. Earth and Planetary Letters, vol. 619.1 October, 2023, 118302). Evidence for ancient shorelines at the top of a 3.5 mile high escarpment on the volcano’s perimeter? Shorelines of an ocean that may have filled the northern lowlands of Mars?

Our little rovers reveal ancient organic molecules dispersed over Mars, and provide evidence of ancient water bodies and and now an ocean? Mars has ground ice, water in icecaps, and lots of cold, dry, eroded and desiccated land. What happened to Earths’ little brother?

  • Meteor Showers

Of the six meteor showers in August, four are minor, one moderate, and the Perseids are the best! The minor showers include the southern Iota Aquarids (8/4), northern Delta Aquarids (8/8), Kappa Cygnids (8/17), and northern Iota Aquarids (8/19). The Perseids (8/13) and the moderate Alpha Aurigids (8/31) are:

August 13, 4AM: Perseids. Active July 17- August 24. Radiant 03h04m +57°. ZHR 120 t0 160. 59 km/sec. Very Favorable –  Perseus high in eastern sky, Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Aug 31/Sept. 1: Alpha Aurigids. Active Aug 25 – September 5.. Radiant 05h36m +42°. ZHR 10. 66 km/sec. Unfavorable, Waning Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: Comet Kiess (C/1911 N1).

  • Planet Plottings

In August, Venus (-4.1 to -4.3) moves from Leo to Cancer where it has its inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 13th, right after the Perseid Meteor shower. It will then pop into eastern morning skies in the last two weeks of August. Crescent Venus can be easily seen at the end of the month when it is 26.5° west of the Sun and 10° above the horizon an hour before sunrise. At the same time, Uranus (+5.8 to +5.7) in Aries, can be seen with binoculars scintillating in Aries high in the southeast, slightly below and east of Jupiter (-2.2 to -2.4). Neptune (+7.8) in Pisces, and Saturn (+.6 to +0.4) in Aquarius are in the southwestern sky and can be seen in the eastern sky in the evening. August provides the best viewing of Saturn in 2023 because it will be at opposition on the 27th. 

In early August, Mars (+1.8) and Mercury (+0.2 to +2.8) are just above the western horizon in Leo in the afterglow of sunset. Mars is higher but harder to find because it is much dimmer. After Mercury’s maximum eastern elongation of 27° from the Sun on the 9th, both planets become harder to find as they drop lower in the western sky after sunset.

The waning gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 6th and Neptune on the 8th and the waning crescent passes Jupiter and Uranus on the 11th and 12th. The waxing crescent passes Mercury on the 19th, and Mars and Venus on the 20th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Cancer, Leo

-26.5

New Moon

5:38AM EDT

8/16

Mercury

Leo

+0.2 to +2.8

Max. East Elongation

10:00AM EDT

8/9

Venus

Leo, Cancer

-4.1 to -4.3

Inferior Conjunction

7:00AM EDT

8/13

Mars

Leo, Virgo

1.8

Jupiter

Aries

-2.2 to -2.4

Saturn

Aquarius

+0.6 to +0.4

Opposition

4:00AM EDT

8/27

Uranus

Aries

+5.8 to +5.7

Neptune

Pisces

7.8

  • August Moon

The New Moon of August is in Leo on the 16th at 5:38AM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1245 which ends 29.67 days later with the New Moon of September at the boundary of Leo and Virgo on the 14th at 9:40AM EDT. There are two Full Moons in August. Both are “Supermoons” because each occurs near perigee when the Moon is closest to Earth and presents its largest image. The Full Moon on the 1st occurs at 2:32PM in Capricornus, 11.3 hrs before perigee. It is called the Sturgeon, Green Corn, or Grain Moon. The Full Moon on the 30th in Aquarius is the brightest of 2023 and occurs at 9:36PM EDT, 9.7 hours after perigee. As the 2nd Full Moon in the month, it is also called a “Blue Moon”. The August Full Moon was called the “Corn Moon” in Medieval England and for Celts it was the “Dispute Moon”. In China, it is the “Harvest Moon” and Colonial Americans called it “Dog Day’s Moon”. Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the years’ 8th Moon as “Manoominike-giizis” (Ricing Moon). 

Ontario ’s Earth Haven Farm presents cultural teachings explaining the cycle of life and nature of August’s Grandmother Moon of Creation: “The eighth moon of Creation is the Thimbleberry Moon, when we honor the Thimbleberry which produces an abundance of fruit once every three years. It was one of the first plants put on Mother Earth, and its purpose is to protect the Sacred Circle of Life by allowing us to recognize and understand the teachings that come from the Spirit World.” 

The first Lunar perigee in August is on the 2nd. The Moon is at 222,022 mi. (56.03 Earth radii) at 1:52AM EDT. The 2nd at 11:54AM EDT on the 30th is at 221,942 mi. (56.00 Earth radiil). Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on August 16 at 5:38AM EDT when the Moon’s is at 252,671 mi. (63.75 Earth radii).                                                                                                                           

A waning gibbous Moon passes Saturn on the 3rd, Neptune on the 4th, Jupiter and Uranus on the 8th. A waning crescent passes Venus on the 15th, and a waxing crescent passes Mercury and Mars on the 18th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Gemini

-26.8

5:38AM EDT, 8/16 New 0 Days
Mercury Leo

0.8

7.0°N, 7:00AM EDT, 8/18 Waxing Crescent 2.06 Days
Venus Cancer

-3.9

13.0°N, Noon EDT, 8/15 Waning Crescent 28.60 Days
Mars Virgo

1.8

2.0°N, 7:00PM EDT, 8/18 Waxing Crescent 2.56 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.3

3.0°N, 6:00AM EDT, 8/8 Waning Gibbous 21.64 Days
Saturn Aquarius

0.6

2.0°S, 6:00AM EDT, 8/3 Waning Gibbous 16.64 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

3.0°N, 9:00PM EDT, 8/8 Waning Gibbous 22.27 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.8

1.5° S, 6:00PM EDT, 8/4 Waning Gibbous 18.14 Days

July Skies by Dick Cookman

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

Focus Constellations: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Leo Minor, Leo, Virgo, Coma Berenices, Bootes, Ophiucus, Hercules, Lyra, Aquila, Cygnus 

  • Comet Journals 

Comets C/2023 E1 (ATLAS) and C/2021 T4 Lemmon are at 8th magnitude in July skies. The former is an inner Kuiper Belt object and is currently in Ursa Minor. It will circuit through northern hemisphere skies and will reach Cepheus by the 31st. It will pass perihelion on July 1 and be closest to Earth on August 18. Comet Lemmon is an Oort Belt comet. It is in Sculptor in southern hemisphere skies and will be closest to Earth on July 20 and then pass perihelion on the 31st. It will enter northern hemisphere skies at the end of the year as it retreats into the outer solar system.

  • Mars Landers

Despite the rover and satellite evidence for Martian underground ice, polar ice, and water bearing minerals, no liquid water has been found on the planet. Yet copious evidence for water erosion in the many gullies and canyons found on the planet raises questions about how they were formed. Current understanding of Martian climate history favors an early episode of a warmer and wetter climate with lakes, rivers, and possibly, oceans. Then, about 3 billion years ago, drier and colder conditions accompanied by massive decrease in atmospheric density prevailed. How then did all the gullies and canyons of apparently relatively recent origin develop? 

Like Earth, Mars has long term orbital and orientation changes. Earth’ s variation in orbital eccentricity, rotation of its elliptical orbit, and variation in tilt of its axis appear to influence the twentyfold advances and retreats of glaciers in the last two million years. 

Mars has much more drastic orbital/axial variations. Instead of Earth’s paltry 21.5 to 24.5 degree variation in axial tilt over 40,000 years, the absence of a stabilizing large moon and the gravitational influence of giant Jupiter causes Mars to undergo a 15 to 35 degree variation in axial tilt over 2.5 million years. At the latter extreme, Brown University researchers conclude that the poles could be bathed in sunlight causing them to sublimate H2O and CO2 greenhouse gases into the atmosphere within the last few hundred thousand years, creating a denser, warmer, more humid atmosphere possibly producing sufficient rain to develop erosive water flows.

  • Meteor Showers

July 9: Pegasids. Active July 7-13. Radiant 22h40m +15°. ZHR 3. 70 km/sec. 1st Quarter Moon. Progenitor: C/1979 Y1 (Bradfield).

July 28: Delta Aquarids Active July 12-Aug 19. Radiant 22h36m -16°. ZHR 20. 41 km/sec. Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet 96P / McCholtz

July 30: Alpha Capricornids Active July 3-Aug 15. Radiant 20h28m -10°. ZHR 0 to 100+. 23 km/sec. Waning Crescent Moon. Progenitor: Comet 169/P Neat

  • Planet Plottings

July pre-dawn planets includes Uranus (+5.8) in Aries, Jupiter (-2.1 to -2.2) in Aries, Neptune (+7.9) in Pisces, and Saturn (+.08 to +0.6) in Aquarius. From Uranus above the eastern horizon and brilliant Jupiter dominating the southeastern sky, to dim Neptune in the south, and Saturn high in the southwest, the sky is bespeckled with the outer gas giant planets. Saturn is visible all night long, rising soon after sunset. The other giant planets rise in the evening and are best viewed before dawn.

The inner terrestrial planets rise after the Sun and appear in evening skies. Venus (-4.3 to -4.1) is at its brightest for 2023 on the 9th, and is within 5.0° of dimmer Mars (+1.7 to +1.8) on the 26th when they are just above the western horizon in Leo after sunset. After its superior conjunction with the Sun on the 1st, Mercury joins Venus and Mars during the last third of July, when the inner planets get together in Leo.

From the 6th to the 12th, the waning Moon passes the outer planets, then the waxing crescent passes the inner planets on the 19th and 20th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Taurus, Gemini

-26.5

New Moon

2:32PM EDT

7/17

Mercury

Gemini, Leo

-2.1 to +0.1

Superior Conjunction

Venus, 5.0°S

1:00AM EDT

9:00AM EDT

7/1   

7/26

Venus

Leo

-4.3 to -4.1

Mercury, 5.0°N

9:00AM EDT

7/26

Mars

Leo

+1.7 to +1.8

Jupiter

Aries

-2.1 to -2.2

Saturn

Aquarius

+0.8 to +0.6

Uranus

Aries

5.8

Venus, 1.6°N

9:00AM EDT

6/11

Neptune

Pisces

+7.9 to +7.8

  • July Moon

July’s New Moon in Gemini on the 17th at 2:32PM EDT marks the start of Lunation 1244, which ends 29.63 days later with the New Moon of August in Leo on the 16th at 5:38AM EDT. The Full Moon is in Sagittarius on the 3rd at 7:39AM EDT. The July Moon is called the “Thunder, or Hay Moon” . It was called the “Mead Moon” in Medieval England and for Celts it was the “Moon of Claiming”. In China, it is the “Hungry Ghost Moon”. Colonial Americans called it “Summer Moon”. Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the 7th Moon of the year as the Flower Moon and as “Miin-giizis” (Berry Moon).
Earth Haven Farm in Ontario documents the cultural teaching which explains the cycle of life and nature of the July Grandmother Moon of Creation as follows: “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 Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 223,786 mi. (56.47 Earth radiil) on the 4th at 6:25PM EDT. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on July 20 at 2:57AM EDT when the Moon’s distance is 252,456 mi. (63.70 Earth radii). A waning gibbous Moon appears to pass Saturn on the 6th and Neptune of the 8th. The waning crescent passes Jupiter on the 11th and Uranus on the 12th. The waxing crescent passes Mercury on the 19th, and Mars and Venus on the 20th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Gemini

-26.8

2:32PM EDT, 7/17 New 0 Days
Mercury Cancer

-0.3

4.0°N, 5:00AM EDT, 7/19 Waxing Crescent 1.60 Days
Venus Leo

-4.3

8.0°N, 5:00AM EDT, 7/20 Waxing Crescent 2.60 Days
Mars Leo

1.8

3.0°N, Midnight EDT, 7/20 Waxing Crescent 2.39 Days
Jupiter Aries

-2.1

2.0°N, 5:00PM EDT, 7/11 Waning Crescent 23.68 Days
Saturn Aquarius

0.8

3.0°S, 11:00PM EDT, 7/6 Waning Gibbous 18.93 Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

2.0°N, 2:00PM EDT, 7/12 Waning Crescent 24.56 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

1.7° S,10:00AM EDT, 7/8 Waning Gibbous 20.39 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, Leo, Virgo, Coma Berenices, Bootes, Ophiucus, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus 

  • Comet Journals 

Tenth magnitude Comet C/2023 E1 (ATLAS) has joined 9th magnitude Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon in June skies. The latter may approach naked eye visibility in July. The former is an inner Kuiper Belt object and is currently in Draco. It will circuit through northern hemisphere skies this summer when it may brighten to 9th magnitude. It will pass perihelion on July 1 and be closest to Earth on August 18. Comet Lemmon is an Oort Belt comet. It is in Cetus in southern hemisphere skies and will move into Sculptor by months end. It will be closest to Earth on July 20 and then pass perihelion on the 31st. It will enter northern hemisphere skies at the end of the year as it retreats into the distant yonder.

  • Mars Landers

Ingenuity – the little rotorcraft that could! On April 2, after 49 flights scouting ahead for the Perseverance Rover, the Ingenuity team failed in their attempt to uplink instructions for the next flight. On the 40th flight, the rotorcraft began struggling with wintertime communication brownouts as it occasionally slipped into low-power mode. The April 2 (Sol 755) blackout ended on Sol 762 when quiet pings received by the rover from the spunky space helicopter confirmed that it had not died. Perseverance and Ingenuity were investigating the Jezero Delta and became separated by a ridge which interrupted communication. During the blackout, the rover moved toward the last known location of the helicopter and finally received the pings when approaching within 262 feet of its location, allowing the team to uplink flight 50 instructions.

  • Meteor Showers

Lyrid/Bootid meteor showers are possible June respites from May’s meteor deficient skies. 

June 16: Lyrids, Active (?) June 11-June 21. Radiant 18h32m 35°. ZHR variable. 31 km/sec. 2 days before New Moon. Progenitor: ?

June 27: Bootids, Active June 22-July 2. Radiant 14h56m 48°. ZHR up to 100. 18 km/sec. 1 day after 1st quarter Moon. Progenitor: Comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke

  • Planet Plottings

Kepler died in 1630 and Galileo died right after Isaac Newton was born in 1642. In a letter to Robert Hooke in 1675 Newton wrote “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Galileo and Kepler certainly are among the giants. After an extremely troubled childhood, In college,  Newton graduated from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes, Robert Boyle, Galileo, and Kepler and incorporated their discoveries into a cohesive format that we call classical physics over the next few decades. To make the necessary accurate predictions concerning motion and gravitation, he had to invent a new branch of mathematics. Recent work by Einstein and others with even more advanced mathematics reveals newtonian predictions fail only under the most extreme motion and gravitation conditions. Newton also was one of the earliest developers of rigorous optical science. He discovered white light composition and integrated color into the science of light, laying the foundation for modern physical optics.

Mercury (0.4 to -2.1) in Aries and Gemini, Uranus (5.8) in Aries, Jupiter (-1.9 to -2.1) in Aries, Neptune (7.9) in Pisces, and Saturn (1.0 to 0.8) in Aquarius are morning planets in June. Mercury passes 3.0° from Uranus on the 4th and is best viewed in the 1st half of June after which it drops into the glow of sunrise. The planets are arrayed in the above order along a line extending from Mercury near the ENE horizon to Saturn, high above the SSE horizon.

June is an awesome month to view brilliant Venus (-4.2 to -4.3) in Gemini and Leo. Red Mars (1.6 to 1.7) is much, much dimmer in Cancer and Leo. Both are evening planets. Venus is at greatest eastern elongation (45°) from the Sun on the 4th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Aries

-26.5

New Moon

12:37AM EDT

6/18

Mercury

Aries-Gemini

0.4 to -2.1

Uranus 3.0°N

1:00AM EDT

6/04

Venus

Gemini-Leo

-4.2 to -4.3

Max. East Elongation

7:00AM EDT

6/04

Mars

Cancer-Leo

1.6 to 1.7

Jupiter

Aries

-1.9 to -2.1

Saturn

Aquarius

1.0 to 0.8

Uranus

Aries

5.8

Mercury 3.0°S

1:00AM EDT

6/04

Neptune

Pisces

7.9

  • June Moon

The New Moon of June is in Taurus on the 18th at 12:37AM EDT, 3 days before the Summer Solstice at 10:58AM on the 21st. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1243 which ends 29.58 days later with the New Moon of July in Taurus on the 17th at 2:32PM EDT. The Full Moon is in Scorpius on the 3rd at 11:42PM EDT. The June Moon is called the “Flower, Rose, or Strawberry Moon” . It was called the “Dyan Moon” in Medieval England and for Celts it was the “Moon of Horses”. In China, it is the “Lotus Moon” and Colonial Americans called it “Rose Moon”. Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the 6th Moon of the year as “Ode’imini-giizis” (Strawberry Moon) in the western dialect and “Baashkaabigonii-giizis” (Blooming Moon) in the eastern dialect. 

Earth Haven Farm in Ontario documents the cultural teaching which explains the cycle of life and nature of the June Grandmother Moon of Creation as follows: “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 distance (minimum lunar distance) is 226,714 mi. (57.91 Earth radiil) on the 6th at 7:06PM EDT.  Lunar Apogee (maximum distance) is on June 22 at 2:30PM EDT at 251,895 mi. (63.42 Earth radii).                                                                                                                           

A waning gibbous Moon appears to pass Saturn on the 9th. The waning crescent passes Neptune on the 11th, Jupiter on the 14th, Uranus on the 15th, and Mercury on the 16th. The waxing crescent passes Venus on the 21st, and Mars on the 22nd.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun

Taurus

-26.8

12:37AM EDT, 6/18 New

0 Days

Mercury

Taurus

-1.0

4.0°N, 5:00PM EDT, 6/16 Waning Crescent 28.21 Days

Venus

Cancer

-4.3

4.0°N, 9:00PM EDT, 6/21 Waxing Crescent

3.85 Days

Mars

Leo

1.7

4.0°N, 6:00AM EDT, 6/22 Waxing Crescent

4.22 Days

Jupiter

Aries

-2.0

1.5°N, 3:00AM EDT, 6/14 Waning Crescent 25.63 Days
Saturn Aquarius

0.9

3.0°S, 4:00PM EDT, 6/9 Waning Gibbous 21.17Days
Uranus Aries

5.8

2.0°N, 6:00AM EDT, 6/15 Waning Crescent

26.75 Days

Neptune Pisces

7.9

2.0° S, 4:00AM EDT, 6/11 Waning Crescent

22.67 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, Cancer, Leo, Leo Minor, Virgo, Coma Berenices, Bootes, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus

  • Comet Journals 

There are no bright comets in May. C/2020 V2 (ZTF) has faded to 11th magnitude and is joined by 11th magnitude Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon which may approach naked eye visibility in July. The former is an Oort Belt object and is currently in Aries. It will dive into southern hemisphere skies this summer when it may brighten to 9th magnitude. It will pass perihelion on May 8 and be closest to Earth in September. The latter is another Oort Belt comet. It is in Cetus in southern hemisphere skies where it will be closest to Earth on July 20 and then pass perihelion on the 31st. It will enter northern hemisphere skies at the end of the year as it retreats into the distant yonder.

  • Mars Landers

In early March, NASA’s Perseverance rover ascended through the layers exposed on the edge of a delta extending five kilometers into Jezero Crater from its margin. The delta is at the mouth of a dried up canyon carved by an ancient river which flowed into a lake which once filled Jezero Crater. The course of this river valley can be traced to highlands over 50 kilometers distant. In March and April, the rover traversed almost four kilometers from the edge of the delta, circuited around Belva Crater, which was formed by post delta impact, and is now approaching Neretva Vallis, the canyon which fed the delta. The delta caprock includes boulders and flagstones which probably originated from sediment and rocks carried from upstream and debris which rained down from surrounding impacts. 

  • Meteor Showers

Dark skies unpolluted by unshielded outdoor lighting offer one major shower in May when the Earth visits the debris field left from previous passages of the most famous comet: 

May 6: Eta Aquarids Active Apr 19-May 28. Radiant 22h32m -01°. ZHR ~40. 66 km/sec. 1 day after New Moon. Progenitor: Comet 1P/Halley

  • Planet Plottings

Galileo Galilei, an Italian polymath who has been called the father of observational astronomy, modern-era classical physics, the scientific method, and modern science, studied motion, developed the pre-Einstein theory of relativity which provided a basis for the future work of Newton, and invented a variety of scientific instruments. After hearing about a viewing device developed in Holland, he designed and marketed working telescopes which he sold to fund his daughter’s dowries. He utilized his telescopes to examine the phases of Venus, Jupiter’s 4 largest moons, Saturn’s rings, lunar craters, and sunspots. The resulting observational evidence led him to promote the Copernican model of a Sun centered solar system and attempt its incorporation into Church doctrine. His ideas were investigated and rejected by the Roman Inquisition. Galileo’s subsequent defense (Dialogue of the Two Chief World Systems), alienated the Pope and Jesuits. He was convicted of heresy and sentenced to lifelong house arrest.

Saturn (1.0) in Aquarius and Neptune (7.9) in Pisces are morning planets. A waning crescent Moon passes Saturn on the 13th and Neptune on the 14th. Jupiter (-1.9) in Pisces is visible on the eastern horizon right before sunrise and Mercury (6.0) in Aries, is at inferior conjunction on May 1. Mercury is best viewed at magnitude 0.6 when below and slightly south of Jupiter at greatest western elongation on the 29th. A waning crescent Moon passes Jupiter and Mercury in the evening of May 17, after the morning New Moon. Uranus (5.8) in Aries is at Solar conjunction on the 9th and not visible in May. 

May is the best month in 2023 to view Venus (-4.0 to -4.2) which moves along the northwestern evening horizon from between the horns of Taurus on the 1st into Gemini on the 8th. The waxing crescent Moon passes within 2° of Venus on the 23rd. Mars (1.3 to 1.5) is south of Venus in Gemini and moves into Cancer by the 17th. It is orbiting the Sun about 90° behind Earth and is farthest from the Sun (aphelion) on the 30th. The waxing crescent Moon passes Mars on the 24th.

Planet

Constellation(s)

Magnitude

Planet Passages

Time

Date

Sun

Aries

-26.5

New Moon

11:53AM EDT

5/19

Mercury

Aries

6.0 to 0.6

Inferior Conjunction Max. West Elongation

7:00PM EDT 2:00AM EDT

5/1 5/29

Venus

Taurus, Gemini

-4.0 to -4.2

Mars

Gemini – Cancer

1.3 to 1.6

Jupiter

Pisces

-1.9

Saturn

Aquarius

1.0

Uranus

Aries

5.9 to 5.8

Solar Conjunction

4:00PM EDT    

5/9

Neptune

Pisces

7.9

May Moon
The New Moon of May is in Taurus on the 19th at 11:53AM EDT. The New Moon marks the start of Lunation 1242 which ends 29.53 days later with the New Moon of June in Taurus on the 18th at 12:37AM EDT. The Full Moon is in Libra on the 5th at 1:34PM EST. The May Moon is called the “Planting Moon” or the “Milk Moon”. It was called the “Hare Moon” in Medieval England and for Celts it was the “Bright Moon”. In China, it is the “Dragon Moon” and Colonial Americans called it “Milk Moon”. Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the 5th Moon of the year as the Flower Moon and as “Namebine-giizis” (Suckerfish Moon) in the western dialect and “Zaagibagaa-giizis” (Budding Moon) in the eastern dialect.
Earth Haven Farm in Ontario documents the cultural teaching which explains the cycle of life and nature of the May Grandmother Moon of Creation as follows: “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”.
Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 229,449 mi. (57.91 Earth radiil) on the 11th at 1:05AM EDT. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on May 25 at 9:39PM EST when the Moon’s distance is 251,530 mi. (63.42 Earth radii).
The waning crescent Moon appears to pass Saturn on the 13th, Neptune on the 14th, Jupiter and Mercury on the 17th, and Uranus on the 18th. The waxing crescent Moon passes Venus on the 23rd, and Mars on the 24th.

Planet

Constellation

Magnitude

Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Taurus

-26.8

11:53AM EDT, 5/19 New 0 Days
Mercury Aries

1.7

4.0°N, 10:00PM EDT, 5/17 Waning Crescent 27.42 Days
Venus Gemini

-4.1

2.0°N, 8:00AM EDT, 5/23 Waxing Crescent 3.84 Days
Mars Cancer

1.5

4.0°N, 2:00PM EDT, 5/24 Waxing Crescent 5.09 Days
Jupiter Pisces

-1.9

0.8°N, 9:00PM EDT, 5/17 Waning Crescent 27.38 Days
Saturn Aquarius

1.0

3.0°S, 9:00AM EDT, 5/13 Waning Crescent 22.88Days
Uranus Aries

5.9

1.71°NNW, 11:00PM EDT, 5/18 Waning Crescent 27.96 Days
Neptune Pisces

7.9

2.0° S, 9:00PM EDT, 5/14 Waning Crescent 24.38 Days