Friday, February 20, 2015

Alignment of the Spheres...

Back a few thousand years ago, it was thought that all the celestial bodies rotated around the Earth, mounted on transparent nested spheres. Of course, the Earth was in the center, and the stars, that did not move with respect to each other, were on the outer layer. The rest, the sun, moon and planets all had their own sphere in their complicated motion around the sky. Of course, now we know that the Earth and other planets rotate in orbits, locked to the sun by gravity. But no matter, tonight in the western sky 3 of those bodies came into alignment! From our perspective, the planets Venus and Mars appeared right next to the crescent moon. Of course, they are not really close in space - only from our viewpoint.

We've been suffering some cloudy weather lately(I know, with millions of people freezing or under snow, we can't complain about temps in the 70s, so I complain about clouds!). I knew the alignment was coming up, so didn't think there was a chance given the thick layer at sunset, but the sun popped out right as it set, so kept an eye on the west. Fortunately, we had a 5 minute window where it was thin enough to catch the major players! Shown here is a .6 second exposure to partially make up for clouds with a 300mm lens. cropped slightly.

In real life, of course, Mars is nearly all the way across the solar system, about 205 MILLION miles away, while Venus is coming around the sun towards us at 130 million miles, and the moon a mere 225,000 miles.

The show continues - Venus is rising higher from the setting sun, and Mars is diving towards it, so that pair will be even closer tomorrow. Unfortunately the Moon was only in the picture tonight and will be 12 degrees higher tomorrow. But do keep an eye to the west after sunset if snow and low temperatures allow!

No comments: