Go outside on March 12 and 13!!

Mercury, Venus, and the Moon aligned. Taken from Paranal Observatory in Chile, March 2008 by Yuri Beletsky.

Right when we come back from Spring Break, we will be able to see a planetary conjunction!  You will be able to see Jupiter and Venus be within three degrees of each other and that’s an especially close separation and will be especially brilliant due to the biology of your eyeball – they will be so close that the “hi-def” part of your eye (the fovea) will be activated.  Here is a NASA article about it: Cold and Spellbinding: An Alignment of Planets in the Sunset Sky

Note that this conjunction is just the kind of thing that early astronomers were trying to predict using the Geocentric (Ptolemaic) model of the Solar System (with all of the epicycles and such).  To be honest, the geocentric model worked pretty well at the beginning, but errors combined over the centuries.  This conjunction is also the kind of thing that astronomers used the Heliocentric model of Copernicus to predict but was just as inaccurate due to Copernicus’ need for perfect circles.  Kepler’s models helped take care of the prediction problems thus the heliocentric model became the accepted model of the Solar System :)

To see how the conjunction works, I’ve put a line on this picture from the NASA/JPL Solar System Simulator.  Note that the line from Earth passes by both Venus and Jupiter :)

Solar System on March 12, 2012

Solar System diagram for March 12, 2012 to illustrate the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. Note that Venus and Jupiter are along the same line-of-sight from Earth.


About drgrundstrom

They call me the Dancing Astrophysicist. I love to teach people about the Universe and all the things within it and I love to dance (partner and solo)!

Posted on March 5, 2012, in Observables, Science, SolarSystem and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on New Dad In A Strange Land and commented:
    Those who know me, know that I’m a geek for astronomy! Rather than the occasional eye-rolling I’d receive when I tried to point out something cool like this to friends (and strangers), I’m hoping that by hearing/reading it from someone else it will cause you to pause and say” Wow…cool! I’m gonna go check that out!” Give it a try! You just might like it…

  2. Thank you for this illustration. I was searching for exactly this so that my sons and I could figure out what we were seeing in the sky. Jupiter and Venus were spectacular in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, even through the city’s light pollution.

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