Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Partial Solar Eclipse before sunrise on 8/01

The sun will be partially blocked (about 25%) by the Moon on August 1. For people in Roanoke, though, the sun will still be far below the eastern horizon and, therefore, they will miss out on this event. But this is not so on other parts of our planet. People in Europe, where is sun has been above the horizon for a couple of hours, will catch this partial eclipse, if their weather permits.

Observers in China and Siberia will see this event as a rare total eclipse when the Moon passes directly in front of the sun. When it does that, stars and planets can be seen near the sun. The planet Mercury shines to the lower left of the eclipsed sun and the star cluster M44 in Cancer is just above the sun/Moon pair. Venus, which is not shown on the drawing, lies to the far lower left of Mercury.

Such is our view from Earth ...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mars says goodbye to Saturn

For the past month, Mars has been approaching the bright star Regulus and Saturn. It has now passed both of them. In the image above, Mars is to Saturn's left while Regulus is far below both of them. Mars continues moving away from the Ringed Planet as they both slowly descend lower in the western sky each evening. Saturn's role is just about over for this summer. Mars will stay with us for another month or so.

Look to the southeast after twilight ends for Jupiter. It is easily the brightest object in the night sky, other than our familiar moon.

Such is our view from Earth ...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mars meets Saturn

The solar system's second smallest planet moves next to the second largest planet. Tonight around 10 p.m. look to the west for these two worlds appearing close to each other. Mars may be closer to the Earth, but Saturn is much larger making it appear brighter than the Red Planet. Saturn lies over 900 million miles from us, while Mars sits 200 million miles away. Saturn is roughly 16 times the diameter of little Mars.

Tomorrow night, Mars will begin to move away from Saturn.

Such is our view from Earth ...