Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Look To The West!

Working a late shift at work last night (Wednesday), I was leaving the house at 7:30, I wondered to myself "What the heck is that object by Venus?" It didn't move, so wasn't a plane or satellite... I suspected it was the innermost planet Mercury, and the Internet confirmed it. This weekend it is having a close conjunction with the brilliant Venus, so it is easy to spot the innermost 3 planets (Mercury, Venus, and, of course, Earth!). This picture was taken tonight with the Canon XSI and is a 3 second exposure with the zoom set to about 80mm. They will appear closest Saturday and Sunday night, when they will only be 3 degrees, or about 6 full moon diameters apart. A map at the Sky and Telescope website shows the motion of the two objects for early April. Mercury will fade fast after the weekend, so be sure to check it out!

Oh, and of course, if you want to see the other naked eye planets, as it gets dark, the planet just outside the Earth, Mars, is very close to overhead - can't miss it with it's red tint. And the ringed planet Saturn is low in the southeast at dusk. So there are 5 planets visible at the same time as evening twilight ends (counting our own planet). Jupiter is the only bright planet that is missing - it rises just before dawn very early in the morning almost due east

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