Viewing Heavenly Bodies | 2019

ūüĒ≠ ¬†Updates an¬†earlier post to¬†include recent changes and new information.¬†¬†ūüĒ≠ ¬†

Desktop planetarium software helps plan viewing sessions and keep track of the planets and Moon. Many products are available for all computer platforms and smartphones. A Google search yields links to many sources. Open source and free¬†Stellarium¬†is on my desktop computer. It¬†can be customized to your location and has a nice look and feel. For Android and Mac phones and tablets, I like¬†SkySafari. It isn’t free but is inexpensive.

Online planetarium sites are popular and offer many features. Below are highlights of a few I like. With multiple features, a unique look and feel, and different levels of detail, they can help satisfy your curiosity about astronomical events. I welcome reader questions or reviews about using these tools or others you find helpful.



Heavens Above

This popular site offers a wealth of sky viewing options. It is simple and very easy to use. Your first visit to Heavens Above should include Configuration to change your viewing location using the link in the left sidebar of the site. There is no need to register or login. Type in a city. Click Search. If you wish, drag the red marker to be more specific. Click Update at the bottom. Bookmark the site for return visits. Heavens Above will remember your location for future visits.

Also at the left sidebar are links to many other tools. The Interactive Sky Chart is set to your location and time. Date and time are adjustable above the chart.

After returning to the home screen, I suggest clicking on ISS under 10 day predictions of satellites. It will give you viewing opportunities to see it pass overhead.


First time I opened the Planetarium for In-The-Sky, it recognized my location and local time and gave a sky map for it. The controls are simple and adjusted easily. Dominic Ford runs it from the UK. It is worth a look.


Spaceweather Realtime Image Gallery

This site hosts uploaded images by users of current phenomena in space such as comets, aurora, meteors, conjunctions, and satellites. Each image is clickable and includes some information on how it was made. Bookmark the site and return to Spaceweather dot com often. Each day they present a new set of images.

Eyes on the Solar System

This site is for those who are tech and astronomy savvy. From JPL at NASA, this is a powerful simulator. It is accompanied by rich graphics and top of the line accuracy. Eyes on the Solar System requires a download. It is useful to me when following a special space mission. NASA adds features which the program downloads as an update. If you are reasonably proficient with astronomy and technically comfortable, this is a great resource.

There are helpful¬†Tutorials. For best results, I advise using them. Or, jump in and start exploring the Solar System on your own. Try out the controls. You won’t break anything. Explore the planets and their moons. Bookmark the Eyes site and check back for new features, tours, and news. Their menu choices are¬†updated as needed.



Motions of the Moon

Our nearest heavenly body is the Moon. Follow this link for some interesting facts and an image of today’s Moon. The animation Dial-a-Moon¬†from NASA shows the geocentric phase, libration, position angle of the axis, and apparent diameter of the Moon throughout this year of 2019. Here is the link for southern hemisphere readers. Enter a date to see the Moon as it would appear then. You don’t need to change the time entry. If you do want to change it, Universal Time UT can be found here for your location.

The most obvious change in the Moon is the sequence of phases which occur during each orbit. This animation accurately shows the level of detail possible in a computer simulation. The shadows and features are based on the global elevation map developed from measurements by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

The Moon’s orbit is not circular. It¬†appears a little larger during the time it is closest to Earth. The term Supermoon has been popularized for such a larger appearance. Watch the size vary in the videos below as the Moon goes through the phases during each orbit. It keeps the same side facing toward us. Notice the wobble, or libration. There is a lot going on in the videos. Stop them¬†at any time. View full-screen for best effects.¬†Follow this link¬†for my detailed explanations of each of the Moon’s motions.

Northern Hemisphere View

Southern Hemisphere View

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