Saturday, May 25, 2013

Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?

Until tonight I've been to crazy busy to even check out the nice conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury that is taking place in our evening skies. Have you seen it?

This evening's view from near Tucson, AZ began with a nice sunset. Wouldn't you agree?
Thankfully the cirrus clouds did not interfere with the view. Can you spot the three planets in the shot below?
It's a bit tough, so here's the same shot, but with the planets labeled.
 And another shot, this time taken with a zoom lens:
Any pairing or grouping of planets like this is called a conjunction (hence the title of this post). It might be surprising to think that we have the two inner planets (Venus and Mercury) grouped with one of the outer planets (Jupiter).

When we look at this conjunction of planets, are we essentially looking inward and outward at the same time?

Yes, we are.

Here's a screen shot grabbed from my iPad running Sky Safari Pro:
As you can see, from our vantage point on Earth Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter are all in the same general direction. You can almost draw a line from Earth to Mercury, Venus and Jupiter and that's the geometry that gives us our conjunction. For more details on the conjunction and how the view changes from night to night, check out this info from Sky&Telescope magazine.

And if you are looking for some Schoolhouse Rock, you'll find it here.

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