The Planets for August 2014
The smallest planet will be on the opposite side of the Sun to the Earth on the 9th of the month after which it appears in the western evening twilight. On the 31st of June it will be setting 90 minutes later than the Sun and less than one
1 degree from Virgo’s fifth brightest star, beta Virginis (Zavijava). This is a yellow star and lies at a distance of 33 light years. The thin waxing crescent Moon will be
3 degrees to the south of the planet on the 27th of the month.
At the beginning of June the “Morning Star” will rise 90 minutes before the Sun among the stars of Gemini-The Twins. However as the month progresses it will be rising ever later until by the month’s end will rise only 40 minutes before the sun and in a brightening twilight sky. On the 18th Venus will pass only
from the giant planet Jupiter and on the 24th the waning crescent Moon joins the pair in the early morning twilight.
Situated high in the north western sky after sunset, the red planet spends the first ten days of the month in Virgo before crossing into Libra on the 11th for a rendezvous with Saturn on the 22nd. It will remain within
5 degrees of Saturn for the rest of the month. The 3rd of the month finds the Moon just to the north of Mars and less than
The largest of the planets, Jupiter returns to the morning sky this month but probably not worth the effort until the end of the month. It will then be a few degrees to the east of the Beehive star cluster and rising almost 90 minutes before the Sun. After a close encounter with Venus on the 18th the Moon joins the pair on the 24th.
Still finely balanced on the scales of Libra, Saturn rides high in the northern sky after the Sun has set early in June. Libra’s second brightest star, alpha Librae (Zubenelgenubi) sits directly between Saturn and the planet Mars on the 19th of the month and it is worth noting the subtle colour contrast of these three bodies. The Moon joins the vista on the 4th of the month.
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The Planets for September 2014
The innermost planet spends the entire month of September in the western evening sky in the constellation of Virgo. It reaches it greatest angular distance east of the Sun on the 22nd when it will be setting two hours later than the Sun. On the 20th and 21st of the month Mercury will be within
1 degree of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. The thin waxing crescent Moon joins the pair on the 26th and may well be worth a photograph.
Rising a little over 30 minutes before the Sun on the first few days of September, Venus is well on the way to superior conjunction with the Sun late in October and getting harder to spot in the early morning twilight.
Vernal equinox on the 23rd of the month.
The red planet begins the month in the company of Saturn and the Moon in the constellation of Libra, setting at 11:30pm. Because of its rapid eastward movement against the background stars, by the end of the month it will set only 20 minutes later than this time. On the 13th it crosses into Scorpius and on the 26th into Ophiuchus where, toward the end of the month, it will pass
3 degrees to the north of its rival Antares. The colour similarity of these two bodies is quite striking, both exhibiting a distinct orange tint.
Rising at 5:00am in the early morning twilight, Jupiter starts the month only
3 degrees from M44 the Beehive cluster. It will get easier to observe as the month progresses rising earlier each morning until by the end of the month it will enter the eastern sky at 3:20am, well over two hours before the Sun. The waning crescent Moon will be in attendance on the 20th and 21st of September.
High in the north western sky after sunset, Saturn can still be found on the scales of Libra. The Moon and Mars are in very close proximity at the beginning of the month however the trio will quickly part company as the month progresses with the Moon on its rapid trip around the Earth and Mars on its journey around the Sun. A view through even a small telescope will reveal its magnificent ring structure and on the 11th the asteroid Vesta will be just over
1 degree to the north of Saturn. It will be well worth observing this event telescopically. The thin waxing crescent Moon visits Saturn for the second time in the month on the 28th.
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