....Oakland, California - Stargazing since 1924

What's Up


Bright Planet Notes for 2014:

Major Events (times listed are local to central California):

Jan 10, 2015 - Conjunction of Venus and Mercury.
Feb 22, 2015 - Conjunction of Venus and Mars.
Apr 4, 2015 - Total lunar eclipse.
Sep 20, 2015 - Total lunar eclipse.
Oct 26, 2015 - Conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mars.

Dec 7, 2015 - Conjunction of Venus and the Moon.

Mercury: Best chances for viewing Mercury occur roughly about half-a-week before and after the following dates and times. Note that Mercury is always close to the Sun, and whenever it is visible, it will be low to the eastern or western horizon, just before sunrise (in the east), or just after sunset (in the west), respectively. Use a pair of binoculars to aid your attempts, and as always - DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN! (AS=After Sunset, PD=Pre-Dawn)

Jan 9/AS Conjunction withVenus
Jan 21/AS Conjunction with Venus and ultra-thin crescent Moon
Feb 13/PD

Feb 16&17/PD Conjunction of Mercury and ultra-thin crescent Moon
May 6/AS
Jun 21/PD
Sep 8/AS
Oct 16/PD
Dec 29/AS

Venus: Similar to Mercury in that it is also always close to the Sun, but can stay visible much longer, and is much brighter. In fact, Venus is so bright, if it is at least approximately 20-30 degrees (about the twice or thrice the width of your fist) away from the Sun, it should be able to be seen with a telescope even during broad daylight. DO NOT try this unless you know EXACTLY what you are doing! Accidentally looking at the Sun through a telescope can result in permanent eye damage. Be sure to consult with someone skilled and experienced in doing this before attempting it, yourself. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Generally speaking, Venus will be visible this year in the evening (in the west after sunset) from January to mid-July before it is lost to the Sun. It reappears in the morning (east, before sunrise) around late August, staying visible until late January of 2016.

(AS=After Sunset, PD=Pre-Dawn)

Jan 9/AS Conjunction with Mercury
Jan 21/AS Conjunction with Mercury and ultra-thin crescent Moon
Feb 21/AS Close conjunction with Mars
Mar 22/AS Conjunction with thin crescent Moon
Apr 21/AS Conjunction with thin crescent Moon
May 21/AS Conjunction with thin crescent Moon
Jun 12/AS Conjunction with M44 Beehive starcluster
Jun 12/AS Conjunction with Jupiter and crescent Moon
Jun 30/AS Close conjunction with Jupiter
Oct 22/PD Conjunction with Jupiter and Mars
Nov 7/PD Conjunction with crescent Moon
Dec 7, Lunar occultation from 7:55am to 9:44am PST + in conjunction with Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10)

Mars: At the beginning of January, Mars is visible low in the west just after sunset, but gets lost to the Sun by mid-March, and won't reappear until mid-September in the low eastern pre-dawn skies.

Jupiter: Starts the year fairly low to the east in the early evening but rises earlier and earlier as the weeks pass, making it an easy early evening object all the way through mid-May, before it's lost to the Sun by early July. Starts to become visible low in the pre-dawn skies over the eastern horizon, and stays pre-dawn through the end of the year.

Saturn: Begins appearing low in the easterly pre-dawn hours of January. It eventually moves to early evening viewing times by early May, and will be easily visible in the early evening through the end of July, before being lost to the Sun by the end of August.

Uranus: Starts the year high in the southwest in the early evening but becomes fairly unviewable by early February. Begins to be viewable again in the pre-dawn hours of July, and viewable in the early evening by early October.

Neptune: Starts the year being too close to the Sun to view. Starts to become visible in the southeast around the end of October in the early evening, and stays visible through the end of the year.

New Moons for 2014: Jan 20, Feb 19, Mar 20, Apr 18, May 18, Jun 16, Jul 15, Aug 14, Sep 13, Oct 12, Nov 11, Dec 11.

Meteor showers for 2015 (green text is good)

Morning of Max Name ZHR Radiant & Direction Lunar
Jan 3-4 Quadrantids 40 Bootes high
Apr 21-22 Lyrids 20 Lyra (E) low
May 5-6 Eta Aquarids 60 Aquarius (E) high
Jun 14-16 Lyrids 10 Lyra (E) low
Jul 28-29 Delta Aquarids 20 Aquarius (S) low
Jul 29-30 Capricornids 15 Capricornus (E) low
Aug 12-13 Perseids 60 Perseid (NE) low
Oct 8-9 Draconids 10 Draco (NE) low
Oct 21-22 Orionids 20 Orion (SE) low
Nov 5-12 Taurids 10 Taurus medium
Nov 17-18 Leonids 15 Leo (E) low
Dec 13-14 Geminids 120 Gemini (S) low

Ten of this year's showers (green text) are favorably absent most or all of the Moon, and offer the best viewing opportunities. Note that the best time to view meteor showers is usually between 2am and astronomical dawn. Also, the showers themselves generally occur for days before and after their peaks, and can still be worth watching, off-peak.

The lunar phase calendar (above) was created with a very cool program called Quick Phase, which generates all kinds of info on the phases of the moon. If you're interested in getting it yourself, click here.

*transit - to cross from the eastern half of the sky to the western half, or vice-versa. When an object transits in an east-to-west direction, it's at its highest elevation above the horizon. This is the best time to view any object, because the higher it is in the sky, the fewer layers of Earth's atmosphere will interfere with, and distort, the image.

For more info about What's Up this month, check out Sky & Telescope's web page.

Clear Sky Clock for Chabot Space & Science Center This handy utility predicts what the skies are likely to be like within the next two days. It may take a minute to figure out, but after that, it's quite simple, and very useful.

Direct link for the weekend viewing prospects at Chabot Observatory (usually posted around 6pm on Friday and Saturday evening).





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