This past weekend, three planets converged in the dusk sky for a close pass wherein all of them came within three angular degrees (hold a little finger at arm’s length to approximate a degree) of each other. Needless to say, the cameras were clicking.
Of all the astronomy-themed websites out there, Spaceweather may be the best when it comes to photo galleries for one simple reason: the galleries are created by the website’s visitors, which means tons of cool images coming in from all over the world.
The aurora event of last weekend was no exception.
Come today, Spaceweather already has galleries of planet pictures. For even more good news, the gallery is sure to grow as more people start submitting their images. So, or everyone who missed out thanks to whatever reason, at least there is the Internet.
As for the event itself, the show is not over yet.
The planets in the conjunction (an astronomical term for a close approach of planets) will be Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter. The good news: all three planets are on the bright side with Mercury being the dimmest at around 0 magnitude. For comparison, Mercury is about as bright as the brightest stars in Orion. As for what one can expect to see, the planets are in a triangle right now and will then string out into a line in the coming nights.
As for how to go about seeing the planets, try the following tips. First of all, know your observation location and, more specifically, the cardinal directions as seen from there. Look west-Northwest to find the planets, of which Venus, the third brightest object in the sky, will appear first. Once Venus appears, use binoculars to sweep up the dimmer planets, of which Jupiter will appear first, followed by Mercury. At close approach, all three planets should appear together in a binocular field of view.
Want another reason to look? Triple conjunctions are rare as the last was in 2011 and the next won’t occur until 2015.
As the last part of the puzzle, should aurora be a possibility, be sure to keep an eye on the Cleveland weather forecast and, for hour-by-hour cloud predictions, the Cleveland Clear Sky Clock. The bad news: at least in the Cleveland area, things are always iffy when it comes to clear skies this time of year. Live somewhere else? Find a clock and see if it will be clear near you. The good news, this is a multi-day event, which means more than one opportunity to see the planets.
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