Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Planets put on a show

We've been staring at the sky regularly after sunset and finally spotted the planet Mercury low in the west on Monday evening. Then it was easy to trace a line upwards (eastwards) and see Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.

You can use the moon to help identify some of the planets in the sky this week. Once you find them, it is fun to see how they move with respect to the star patterns, which don't change. I think the word "Planet" comes from a word that means "wanderer", which is exactly what they seem to do against the regular backdrop of the stars.

We can see lots of the sky, here on our desert island in the Caribbean, so we'll have fun keeping track of all these planets for the next week or so, until Mercury dips back below the horizon. Here is a writeup on what to look for.

Venus and the Moon will be close together tonight (wednesday). I posted a picture of a pairing like this a few months ago. Venus and the Moon should be easy to spot, even in a brightly lit suburban area. I'll be looking at it tonight, from the TWR activities building, where we hold our Awana club on Wednesday nights.

The moon will be near Mars on Thursday evening, to help you locate that planet, as well as the Pleiades star cluster, which looks like a teeny tiny dipper. You will need darker skies to see the Pleiades. By this time next week, Mars and Venus will have moved eastward and Venus will be near the Pleiades.

The moon will be near Saturn on Saturday.

The moon will be near Jupiter on Friday, April 2. But Jupiter is bright enough that you might be able to find it without the moon's help.

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