Jupiter And Venus Amaze / Tonight’s Full Buck Moon Fights Fire Haze

Venus and Jupiter are reflected in a lake near Duluth, Minn. during their close conjunction yesterday at dusk. Credit: Bob King
Venus and Jupiter are reflected in a lake near Duluth, Minn. during their close conjunction yesterday at dusk. Credit: Bob King

With all the forest fire haze swirling around the region I thought the Venus-Jupiter conjunction would be a bust. Thankfully these two celestial lights still managed to amaze through the haze. We were fortunate to see them last night at their closest. What a pretty sight they made — topaz and diamond on pale blue.

Damian Peach lucked out and made this picture of the last night's conjunction before thunderstorms moved in. Credit: Damian Peach
Damian Peach lucked out and made this picture of the last night’s conjunction before thunderstorms moved in. Credit: Damian Peach

They’ll be back at it tonight but just a little farther apart. Because the two planets approach so closely, they change orientation each night, revealing the combined effects of Earth’s revolution around the Sun and Venus’ diminishing apparent distance from the Sun quickly. If they were much farther apart, we’d have to wait a couple weeks to notice their changing positions. Both planets will remain just degrees apart for much of the month as they sink together toward the western horizon.

The Full Buck Moon in Sagittarius tonight. Coincidentally, it's right next to the dwarf planet Pluto, which NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will visit in just 13 days. Source: Stellarium
The Full Buck Moon in Sagittarius tonight. Coincidentally, it’s right next to the dwarf planet Pluto, which NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will visit in just 13 days. Source: Stellarium

Tonight’s the Full Buck Moon (named for the new antlers growing from the foreheads of buck deer) or if you prefer, the Full Thunderstorm Moon. Although it shines from Sagittarius the Archer, you won’t see much of the constellation’s stars because of the moon’s overwhelming glare.

But know this when you’re out for that moonlight walk tonight. Just a couple degrees below and left of the moon lurks Pluto. In just 13 days, NASA’s New Horizons probe will make a dramatic flyby of the dwarf planet and its five (or more!) moons.

On June 29, 2015 NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of a river of smoke pouring across the Canadian provinces and central U.S. from hundreds of wildfires (seen at upper left) in western Canada. Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC
On June 29, 2015 NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of a river of smoke pouring across the Canadian provinces and central U.S. from hundreds of wildfires (seen at upper left) in western Canada. The difference in color between clouds true clouds and smoke is obvious. Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

For many in the Midwest, southeastern U.S. and Canadian provinces the dreaded fire haze has returned to bleach the sky night and day. Fires still rage in Alberta and Saskatchewan; over the past few days favorable winds have sent a river of smoke south and east. Our blue sky has gone white and starlight is weak, but the upside is that the moon and Sun both appear much more colorful than usual. Check it out by watching the moonrise tonight. Click HERE to find out when it rises for your town.