Monday, December 1, 2008

Triple Treat


This evening there will be an unusual, yet spectacular, event in the southwestern sky. The planets Venus and Jupiter will be very close, and they will be joined by a crescent moon. If you have been looking up for a couple of weeks now, you have seen the two brightest planets in the same general area. Tonight, it is likely that they will be able to be viewed all together through a telescope or binoculars. This is closer than they will appear until the year 2052.

J. Rao of "Space" indicates that...a very close conjunction of the crescent moon and a bright star or planet can be an awe-inspiring naked-eye spectacle. The English poet, critic and philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) used just such a celestial sight as an ominous portent in his epic, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In addition, there are juxtaposed crescent moon and star symbols that have appeared on the flags of many nations, including Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Tunisia.

Keep in mind that this head-turning display of three celestial objects crowded together will be merely an illusion of perspective: the moon will be only about 251,400 miles from Earth, while Venus is nearly 371 times farther away, at 93.2 million miles. Meanwhile, Jupiter is almost 2,150 times farther away than our natural satellite at 540.3 million miles. Interesting stuff. Blessings,


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