Old 30th October 2004, 16:44   #1
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Doorstep Astronomy

Doorstep Astronomy: Bright Morning Planets

By Joe Rao
SPACE.com's Night Sky Columnist
posted: 29 October, 2004
6:40 a.m. ET

The first week of November will be an exceptional time for predawn skywatchers with a beautiful gathering of the two brightest planets, and the waning crescent Moon will later drop by to join them.

Venus and Jupiter will appear closest together on the mornings of Nov. 4 and 5.

SKY MAP: The planets on Nov. 4 from mid-northern latitudes in the predawn.

The Moon joins the planets on Nov. 9. Again, the view is from mid-northern latitudes in the predawn..

The moment of closest approach will actually come during the early evening hours of Nov. 4, unfortunately when this dynamic duo is below the horizon for North America. They’ll be separated by just over ½-degree, roughly the apparent width of the Moon (the width of your fist, held at arm’s length roughly corresponds to 10 degrees).

Generally speaking, at least for the immediate future, conjunctions between Venus and Jupiter will come in pairs. The first conjunction takes place in the morning sky, usually followed about 10 months later by another in the evening sky.

Then 2½ years later, Venus and Jupiter are again in conjunction, again in the morning sky.

When Venus and Jupiter next get together, it will be in the evening sky late next summer, at the beginning of the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Future Venus-Jupiter conjunctions

The table below shows future Venus-Jupiter pairings in the coming decade.
Date Visible in Separation
Nov. 04, 2004 Morning Sky 0.6-degrees
Sep. 02, 2005 Evening Sky 1.4-degrees
Feb. 01, 2008 Morning Sky 0.6-degrees
Dec. 01, 2008 Evening Sky 2.0-degrees
May. 11, 2011 Morning Sky 0.6-degrees
Mar. 15, 2012 Evening Sky 3.3-degrees


The closest approaches between these two planets come during the morning apparitions. So although their next conjunction comes about ten months from now, the next time Venus and Jupiter will appear as close together as they will this week, won’t come until February 2008.

After Nov. 4, Venus and Jupiter will slowly separate, but there will still be one more eye-catching sight.

On the morning of Nov. 9, those who arise about 45 minutes before sunrise will be treated to a spectacular sight as Venus, Jupiter and the Moon – the three brightest objects of the night sky – form a stretched-out triangle, the Moon appearing closely above Jupiter.

Imagine the astrological significance that the ancients might have ascribed to a celestial summit meeting such as this!

As a bonus, the 1st-magnitude star Spica and the planet Mars barely miss being part of this assembly; look for them respectively about 17 and 22 degrees below the Moon if the sky is clear and dark enough. More on this morning spectacle in next week’s Night Sky Friday.
More Stories:_____________________________________________________________

Image Of The Day

October 29, 2004
The Arc of an Eclipse

The total lunar eclipse of Oct. 27, 2004 wowed skywatchers across much of the world. Photographers had [urlhttp://www.space.com/spacewatch/eclipse_wrap_041027.html]several ways[/url] of looking at it.

This view, put together by Ferdie Evangelista of Montreal, shows the Moon not only going through the eclipse phases but also arcing across the sky during the hours-long event. The arc represents a path in the sky called the ecliptic, which the Sun and other planets follow, as seen from Earth. [Why?]

The eclipse was visible from most of the Americas, Africa and Western Europe. The next total lunar eclipse won't occur until 2007. [More Eclipse Pictures]

As always, this eclipse occurred during a full Moon. But did you know that the Moon is never really full? And have you ever wondered where it goes when it's not even in the night sky? And finally, did you know the Moon used to be somewhere else altogether?

Credit: Ferdie Evangelista

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