Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Five for All

Sky and Telescope diagram

     There's a planetary block party going on in the morning sky. Five of our solar system neighbors are visible just before dawn and you don't need a telescope to see them, although an alarm clock might be handy. You'll want to get up around six am and be out there even though Mercury may not have risen yet. The lineup from east to west is Mercury (dim), Venus (bright), Saturn, Mars and Jupiter. Look all around you for the most amazing planet of them all (hometown pride!). The Moon will be joining the parade as the week progresses. Uranus and Neptune are too faint to be seen without magnification and Pluto's been demoted. We think planet nine is out there but it hasn't been found yet.
     Information and the illustration come from the Sky and Telescope website. I've read the magazine since I was a kid and it's got to be the most accessible and entertaining media outlet in the natural sciences. Highly recommended.
     We're living in a golden age of astronomy with discoveries coming at us like a meteor storm - a new planet, huge stellar explosion, massive black holes, comet landings and Pluto flybys! Luckily we have Sky and Telescope and its website and other sources such as APOD to help us keep up. Still, there's nothing like just going outside and looking up. Puts our relationship with place in big, beautiful perspective.

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