....Oakland, California - Stargazing since 1924








What's Up - 2016

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Bright Planet Notes for 2016:

Major Astronomical Events
(Times listed are local to central California)
(Meteor showers shown in separate table, below)
("Opposition" means the planet is at its closest approach to Earth in its orbit - this makes it the biggest and brightest to be seen for the year)
(Fairly rare events are in bold and blue)

Jan 27, 11:16pm - Waning gibbous Moon in conjunction with Jupiter
Feb 6, Best time to see all 5 bright planets (Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn) at once in the pre-dawn hours + thin crescent Moon
Feb 3, 5:14am - Waning crescent Moon in conjunction with Saturn
Feb 16, 12:39am - Waxing half-Moon occults Aldebaran; Moon sets before Aldebaran shows up again
Feb 23, 8:49pm - Waning near-full Moon in conjunction with Jupiter
Mar 8 - Jupiter at opposition
Mar 20 - Spring Equinox
Mar 21, 9pm - Waxing near-full Moon in conjunction with Jupiter
Mar 23, 1:45am to 5:56am partial penumbral lunar eclipse; most of the Moon will darken slightly
Mar 29, 3am - Waning gibbous Moon in conjunction with Mars and Saturn
Apr 10, 1:23pm to 2:38pm - Waxing crescent Moon occcuts Aldebaran; may be able to be seen even though it's daylight
Apr 17, 9pm - Waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with Jupiter
Apr 25, 12am - Waning gibbous Moon in conjunction with Mars and Saturn
May 9, 4:58am to 10:30am - Transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun; will already have begun before sunrise
May 14, 9pm - Waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with Jupiter
May 21, 9pm - Full Moon in conjunction with Mars and Saturn
May 22 - Mars at opposition
Jun 3 - Saturn at opposition
Jun 11, 9pm - Waxing half-moon in conjunction with Jupiter
Jun 19, 10pm - Waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with Saturn
Jun 20 - Summer Solstice
Jul 15 - Waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with Saturn
Aug 4, 7:55pm - Thin crescent Moon in close conjunction with Mercury (but very close to the western horizon)
Aug 11, 9pm - Waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with Mars and Saturn
Aug 27 - Close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter (just after sunset)
Sep 2, 7pm - Close conjunction with Jupiter (and somewhat close with Venus) (just after sunset and very close to western horizon)
Sep 8, 8pm - Waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Saturn and Mars
Sep 22 - Fall Equinox
Oct 3, 6:30pm - Thin waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Venus (just after sunset and very close to western horizon)
Oct 16 - Supermoon
Oct 18, 9:30pm - Waning gibbous Moon in very close conjunction with Aldebaran
Nov 2, 6pm - Waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Saturn and Venus somewhat low in the southwest
Nov 5, 7pm - Waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Mars
Nov 14 - Supermoon
Nov 24, 5am - Waning crescent Moon in conjunction with Jupiter
Nov 30, 5:25pm - Ultra-thin waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Mercury, (just after sunset, very close to western horizon)
Dec 2 & 3, 5:30pm - Thin waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Venus
Dec 4, 6:30pm - Waxing crescent Moon in conjunction with Mars
Dec 12, 7:07pm to 8:07pm - Almost full Moon occults Aldebaran
Dec 14 - Supermoon

Mercury: Best chances for viewing Mercury occur roughly a few days 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)

Feb 7/PD
Apr 18/AS
Jun 4/PD
Aug 16/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 best seen in the western skies of evening from early November through to mid-March 2017 before it is lost to the Sun.

(AS=After Sunset, PD=Pre-Dawn)
Jan 19/PD
Feb 4/PD Conjunction with Mercury and thin crescent Moon
Aug 24/AS Conjunction with Mercury and Jupiter

Nov 2/AS Conjunction with the Moon and Saturn
Dec 2/AS

Mars: At the beginning of January, Mars is visible low in the east during the wee hours of the morning, moving higher and to the south as the weeks and months pass. By mid-May, it gets high enough in the mid-evening hours, and by mid-June, it reaches its highest point during the early dark hours of summer (around 9:30pm). From there, it slowly slides toward the west, until it gets too low to view around mid-December.

Jupiter: Starts the year fairly low to the east near midnight, but moves earlier in the evening by early March, and stays visible through late May before drifting westward into the late evening hours of mid-June. It doesn't become visible again until the eastern pre-dawn hours of early November.

Saturn: Begins appearing low in the easterly pre-dawn hours of late-January. It slowly moves higher in the sky, further west, and earlier in the evening, until it becomes visible in the early evening hours of mid-June. It will stay viewable until mid-September, when it will eventually be lost to the western horizon. It won't become visible again until the pre-dawn hours of early February 2017.

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

Neptune: Starts the year low in the west, early in the evening as it moves toward the Sun. Only starts to become visible in the southeast around the pre-dawn southeastern skies near end of May, and eventually rises earlier and earlier until it becomes easily visible in the mid-evening skies of mid-September.

New Moons for 2016: Jan 9, Feb 8, Mar 8, Apr 7, May 6, Jun 4, Jul 4, Aug 2, Sep 30, Oct 30, Nov 29, Dec 29.

Meteor showers for 2015 (green text is good)

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

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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