SOUTHERN UTAH — The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is available online. Send questions and comments to [email protected].
This is a quiet week, astronomically speaking, so let’s look at where the moon is each night.
On Monday, the moon is a day past new and you won’t see it, but can you see it the following evening? On Tuesday, it will be the slimmest of crescents barely above the western horizon before the sky is fully dark, and you’ll need a very low horizon to spot it (binoculars will help). On Wednesday you’ll be able to spot it, weather permitting, still the thinnest of crescents only 8% illuminated by the sun.
On this night and the next few you’ll notice “the old moon in the young moon’s arms” – the dark part of the moon that is not illuminated by the sun will be illuminated by the Earth, which is near its full phase as seen from the moon. Through a telescope, you can make out the lunar seas and major craters on the dark side of the moon.
On Thursday, the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull is only 5 degrees to the lower left of the moon, and you can see both together in most binoculars. The Pleiades star cluster, aka the Seven Sisters, is twice that distance from the moon to the lower right.
On Friday, the moon is 5 degrees almost straight below the planet Mars, and on the following night it’s a similar distance above Mars. The moon and Mars are closest at 6 a.m., but then both are far below the horizon – but if you’re on the opposite side of the Earth, where it’s nighttime at that moment, they’ll be in conjunction and only 1 degree apart. On Sunday, the moon is in the middle of Gemini, the Twins.
The new 11-year sun spot cycle began last December. This winter there were few if any sun spots, but their number will increase slowly until the cycle reaches a peak around the summer of 2025, and that’s when there will be the most sun spots and solar activity. Solar filters are an optional accessory for most telescopes, so if you’d like to observe our star by day as well as the others at night, think about getting a solar filter. You can follow the sun’s activity at spaceweather.com and also get alerts for northern lights (auroras) which are triggered by solar activity and which will become more frequent in years ahead.
Written by JOHN MOSLEY. John Mosley was program supervisor of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles for 27 years and is the author of “Stargazing for Beginners” and “Stargazing with Binoculars and Telescopes”. He and his wife live in St. George where he continues to stargaze from his retirement home while serving on the advisory committee for Stellar Vista Observatory.