Monday, January 30, 2012

A Divine Winter Astronomical Jewelbox

Not only has Venus and Jupiter become important and beautiful figures in the winter sky (for us in Northern Hemisphere latitudes!), but the moon has added to the excitement in viewing these jewels, in their jewel box: the night sky. Although the moon presently is obscuring many stars and dimmer planets, Jupiter and Venus shine on strong, with Mars, Mercury, and Saturn pulling along nicely as well. You too can view these planets, and not only with just a telescope or binoculars, Jupiter and Venus are visible just with the naked eye.

If you look to the southwest over the next few nights (late January to early February), Venus and Jupiter rise after sunset, and are in full stature by the sun has pulled itself under the horizon. On January 31, the moon and the Pleiades cluster will gracefully (and by all means aesthetically!) crown Jupiter, and Venus to the south of it. This might create a beautiful winter astronomical scene, minding the weather and potential cloud cover. The moon is currently the brightest object in the sky, the second, Venus, and the third, Jupiter tonight, as it will remain until the moon becomes new again.

Below are personal photos of the Jupiter-Moon conjunction on January 30, 2012. The time was approximately 6:00 pm EST, and as you can see, the moon was high and brightly shining! Jupiter was south of the moon, and left, in the picture below. The following picture is that of Venus, with clouds and trees in the background.

Although this might seem like nothing now, "consider this a preview of even better things to come," encourages! The two planets are going to become closer to one another, with the moon "swinging" in late February. That is when another conjunction of the planets will take place (remember the Four-Planet Dance of 2011?). March 12 the major conjunction when Venus and Jupiter converge within a 3 degree angle. "The winter planet show is just getting started, so stay tuned!"

February 3, 2012 places the moon in "the Winter Circle," as illustrates below. By this point, the moon will be almost full, and bulging with scintillation! The moon is situated in Orion, as you can see Rigel and Betelgeuse being part of the star group. Capella crowns the circle, with Castor and Pollux to its left. Aldebaran is on its right.

As we fully divulge into winter, remember the planets and how beautiful they are: they are jewels in this wonderful jewel-box!

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