Mercury, Saturn Meet A Meager Moon / Space Station Back At Dusk

A very nice conjunction/pairing of the moon, Mercury and Saturn happens tomorrow morning Dec. 1. This map shows the sky facing southeast 45 minutes before sunrise. Stellarium

Feeling well rested? If your answer is yes, I invite you to spend some of your sleep surplus watching a wonderful celestial gathering tomorrow morning. Mercury, Saturn and a very thin crescent moon will bunch up low in the southeastern sky at mid-dawn.

The crescent, just a day and half before new, passes almost directly between the two planets some 2 degrees below Saturn and 3 degrees to the right of Mercury. To see the trio, find a place with a wide-open vista to the east-southeast and start looking about an hour before sunrise.

As always, bring binoculars to help out in case Mercury’s too low to see at first. A little bit of optical aid will also show the full outline of the moon more clearly. This dim part of the lunar globe is illuminated by sunlight reflected off Earth or earthshine.

ISS astronauts, including guitar-playing Chris Hadfield, in festive spirits last Christmas. Credit: NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) got a visit this week from the Russian cargo craft Progress 53 Friday. The unmanned delivery vehicle ferried 2.9 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station crew, including 1,763 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 925 pounds of water and 3,119 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and holiday gifts.

Last month, the ISS cruised the morning skies. Now it’s back in the evening for many locations and easier to see at dusk. But only for a few brief nights. I’ve listed all evening pass times for the Duluth, Minn. region below, but you can always find out when and where it flies over your house simply by dropping by Heavens-Above or typing in your zip code on Spaceweather’s Satellite Flybys page.

The station travels from west to east and can take anywhere from a couple minutes to 5 minutes to cross the sky depending on its angle to the horizon. A small telescope magnifying around 40x will easily show the shape of the ISS if you’re quick enough to track it.

* Tonight Nov. 30 starting at 7:35 p.m. Low, brief pass above the planet Venus in the southwestern sky. Maximum altitude: 33 degrees. One fist held at arm’s length equals 10 degrees.

* Sunday Dec. 1 at 6:46 p.m. Bright pass from southwest to southeast. Max. altitude: 42 degrees

* Monday Dec. 2 at 7:35 p.m. Very low pass across the western sky. Max. altitude: 14 degrees

* Tuesday Dec. 3 at 6:45 p.m. Travels from southwest to north-northeast. Low. Max. altitude: 32 degrees


14 Responses

    1. astrobob

      You bet. I can clearly see the solar panels at 76x in my scope plus other stuff sticking out that I can’t resolve only because the ISS is moving so fast at that magnification. Keeping it centered manually while examining the station for details is tricky.

  1. Edward M. Boll

    Short of vehicles today, so I took my wife into work. About an hour before sunrise, I could easily make out Saturn, Mercury and the Moon.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    I feel with ISON, we have been on a teeter totter. Nov. 26, bad news, 27th good news, 28th bad news, 29th, good news, 30th bad news. Maybe something positive will break tomorrow.

  3. Edward O'Reilly

    Yes,if Ison keeps to its pattern,it will once again blossom tomorrow! We live in hope.Very pretty alignment tomorrow AM;I think I’ll try to get a pic of it-weather permitting.

    1. astrobob

      If you get a shot, please send it my way for possible use on the blog. I would shoot it, but we’ll be overcast tomorrow morning. Thanks.

  4. Edward O'Reilly

    I’ll do that,Bob.It’s going to be a race with the clouds but they might just stay away long enough.

  5. Sean

    per my observation this AM, IF u have a low enough view, Mercury is obvious without optical aid when it 1st rises, which at this point is in the vicinity of 45 minutes b4 sunrise at mid-N latitudes. if u need to see it later/higher, then at least binos would prove very helpful. unfortunately i will be socked in 2moro AM as well. 🙁

  6. Edward O'Reilly

    And the clouds win out.It has actually been snowing most of the night.Hopefully,someone will have clear skies for viewing! lol

  7. Edward M. Boll

    Nice calm, cloudy morning, I saw one star. As far as Ison or what remains of it, now over half way out to Mercury. If one of the remnants would brighten to magnitude 1, we might get a glimpse of it, now low in the twilight.

    1. astrobob

      I’m guessing that folks like Damian Peach and Michael Jaeger will get pictures. After seeing it leave the field of view so faint, I’m now doubtful – unless it fires up again – that it will even show up in my 15-inch a week from now.

  8. Hi Bob,

    I had a nice shot of the moon, Saturn and Mercury this morning, hoping to get some reflection off the Potomac but that sliver of a waning crescent didn’t give me much.

    I posted it on my blog, but if you would like to d/l and use, feel free. Canon 5D Mk III, 400 mm lens set at 100mm, half a second shutter speed, ISO 6400, f/7.1. Location 38.35’16” N, 77.15’13” W, Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge, VA.

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