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Monday 29 August 2016  •   27 Hazel Moon 2016

Viewing the night sky in Hazel Moon 2016

3 August - 1 September 2016

Map of night sky at full moon: 18 August, 09:27 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hazel Moon 2016

Mercury and Venus rise further into the evening sky. On 4 Aug, the new crescent moon is near Mercury and Venus, and also the bright star Regulus. They are well seen from the southern hemisphere, but are low in the west, just after sunset, as seen from the north. Above all of these is Jupiter, now less bright as it moves towards the sunset. As seen during daytime over the South Pacific, the moon passes in front of Mercury. This can be seen after dark from the far south of South America. On 5 Aug, the moon has moved to be nearer Jupiter in the sky. On 6 Aug, the moon occults Jupiter over Indonesia, Melanesia and far NE Australia during daylight, and parts of the South Pacific after dark. On 9 Aug, Jupiter crosses into the constellation Virgo.

On 18 Aug, Mercury reaches 27.43°E of the sun in the evening sky. Much the better view is from the southern hemisphere, but even northern hemisphere sky watchers should be able to see Mercury, Venus and Jupiter together in the sky, especially if you have a good low western horizon. As seen from the north, Mercury is unfortunately very low down, but you may be able to see it below Jupiter. On 22 August, Mercury passes 4°S of Jupiter. On 27 August, Venus passes just four minutes of arc north of Jupiter, easily to be seen together as discs through a telescope, and Jupiter has its moons strung out beside it.

Setting in the late evening, Mars and Saturn are coming closer on the borders of Scorpius and Ophiuchus, with Mars still the brighter of the two. Both planets outshine the nearby bright red star Antares. The moon is in the vicinity on 11 August. On 13 August, Saturn resumes its usual slow eastward course through the stars. On 21 August, Mars crosses into Ophiuchus, getting still closer to Saturn and Antares. By 24 August, Mars has caught up with them, and passes 4.4°S of the ringed planet, and 1.8°N of Antares. On 27 August, still moving eastwards, Mars crosses into another corner of Scorpius.

At dark moon on 1 September, there is an annular eclipse of the sun; visible from parts of Central Africa and Madagascar; there is a partial eclipse for all of Africa except the far north, and much of the Indian Ocean, as well as from the west coast of southern Sumatra at sunset. The annular eclipse comes to Africa on the west coast of Gabon, just south of Port-Gentil at 0840 (0740 UT), and passes north of Brazzaville in Congo, and through central parts of DR Congo and the SW of Tanzania, just fringing north of Mbeya at 1153 (0853 UT). It then passes through the far NE of Mozambique and crosses central Madagascar north of Antananarivo, reaching the east coast at Toamasina at 1255 (0955 UT), before crossing the Indian Ocean just south of Réunion.

Look out for the Perseid meteors on 11/12 August, especially in the early hours after the moon has set. A potentially lovely display.

The month ahead: Vine Moon 2016

2 - 30 September 2016

Map of night sky at full moon: 16 September, 19:05 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2016

The very new crescent moon is near Mercury, Venus and Jupiter on 2 September, but hard to see from the northern hemisphere. The moon occults Jupiter over the NE Pacific, Mexico and the SW USA in daylight, and over Central America after dark. It also occults Venus on 3 Sep, as seen from parts of Siberia.

Jupiter falls slowly into the sunset, and passes behind the sun on 26 Sep. On 30 Sep, the dark moon occults Jupiter from the perspective of the North Atlantic and surrounding lands, but too close to the sun to be seen without special equipment.

Mercury swings this side of the sun to reappear in the eastern morning sky by the end of the month, a good view from the northern hemisphere (and a bad one from the south). On 28 September, it reaches 17.88°W of the sun, easy to spot from northern lands, with the old crescent moon above it. There is an even better view on 29 Sep, when the moon is very near Mercury: so near that, as seen from eastern South America, the very old crescent moon passes in front of Mercury before sunrise. As seen from Rio de Janeiro, the moon occults Mercury from 0517 (0817 UT), with sunrise at 0535. Jupiter moves behind the sun this month, but Venus moves further out into the evening sky.

Further round in the evening sky, and setting mid-evening, are Mars and Saturn, both now less bright than they were earlier in the year, but still outshining the nearby star Antares. On the first night of the month, Mars moves from Scorpius into Ophiuchus, riding some way south of the plane of the solar system. The moon is near Saturn on 8 September, and has passed Mars by the next evening. On 22 September, moving rapidly among the stars, Mars moves into the constellation Sagittarius, now well apart from Saturn and, at 25.9°S, about the furthest south it gets in the Earth sky.

Neptune comes to opposition on 2 September, 4330 million km or 4.01 light hours from Earth. Look for it through good binoculars or a telescope amongst the stars of Aquarius. The moon occults Neptune every month from August 2015 to November 2017, as seen from different parts of the Earth. The best one, visible from most of Europe, is on 15 September. As seen from London soon after dark, the nearly full moon covers Neptune from 2007 to 2056 (1907 to 1956 UT). In Glasgow, it is 2010 to 2102 BST.

At full moon on 16 September, there is a penumbral eclipse of the moon visible from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia. From Western Europe, the moon rises (and the sun sets) during the eclipse, and from eastern Australia and NZ the moon sets during it. The maximum eclipse is at 1954 BST (1854 UT), when you should be able to see some darkening of the northern edge of the moon. Viewed from that part of the moon, there would be a large partial eclipse of the sun. Moonrise London 1912 (1812 UT), Penzance 1933 (1833 UT), Dublin 1938 (1838 UT).

William Morris
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