10 May 2020

Moon and Planets grace the morning sky

Moon and Planets - May 2020
This week, as the Moon passes through its waning phases, it will form some engaging patterns with three planets that are currently visible in the early (pre-dawn) skies. See image showing the change of location of the Moon from one night to the next, and the gentle interplay with Jupiter, Saturn and Mars as the Moon travels in its orbit around the Earth another 12 degrees eastward each day.

Jupiter has been gradually moving eastward as well, albeit considerably slower than the Moon. In fact, it takes Jupiter one full year (on Earth) to move the same 12 degrees eastward as the Moon does every day. And in addition, when we view Jupiter and the other outer planets from our view aboard spaceship Earth, we see a peculiar motion that takes Jupiter westward for a few months before continuing its eastward journey. We call this reverse motion 'retrograde' motion and in fact Jupiter is just now starting into retrograde and will return into the constellation Sagittarius for the summer before returning its eastward journey past Saturn into Capricornus at the end of the year.

This summer, Jupiter and Saturn will rise earlier and earlier and be visible the entire night from July onwards. But for now (in May) you will need to be up after midnight and before the break of dawn, around 4:30 am here in Munich, if you want to see this lovely morning alignment of the Moon and planets. I wish you clear skies and happy viewing!

Image courtesy Sky & Telescope.

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