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Planet Viewing

Scroll down on this page to see which planets are up for a show


Also read:
Observing the Sun and Planets & Anomalies Explained


Learning How to Navigate " EYES ON THE SOLAR SYSTEM"
Jump in and start exploring the Solar System on your own.
Watch the position of the planets and of the satellites; STEREO Ahead, STEREO Behind, Spitzer, Kepler, Rosetta, Voyager 1 & 2, EPOXI, New Horizons, etc
>> Start Exploring

Optimal Times

There are certain times in a planets orbit when a planet is “optimal for viewing.”  For the inner planets: Mercury and Venus the best time to observe is at the Elongations . For the outer planets: Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto the point of best viewing is at the Opposition
For specific planet information by planet: [ Mercury ] [ Venus ] [ Mars ] [ Jupiter ] [ Saturn ] [ Uranus ] [ Neptune ] [ Pluto ]

Elongations   Oppositions
 
Elongations occur when an inner planet's position, in its orbital path, is at tangent to the view from Earth. Because these inner planets are inside the Earth's orbits their positions as viewed from the Earth are never very far from the position of the Sun. When a planet is at Elongation, it is furthest from the Sun as viewed from Earth, so it's view is best at that point. There are two kinds of Elongations: The Eastern Elongation occurs when the planet is in the evening sky and the Western Elongation Occurs when a planet is in the morning sky   For planets outside the Earth's orbit (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto), the months around Oppositions are the best time to view these. An Opposition occurs when the planet is opposite from the Sun, relative to the Earth. At Opposition the planet will rise as the Sun sets and will set as the Sun rises providing an entire night of observation. Also at Opposition the planet comes physically closest to the Earth in it's orbit so it appears as large as possible

Mercury

The solar system's smallest planet flits back and forth from morning sky to evening sky several times a year. It never strays far from the Sun in our sky, so it's tough to find in the glare. From the northern hemisphere, it is visible in the morning sky this year in January, April/May, August, and December. The late-year appearance is the best because the planet will stand highest above the horizon. In the evening, Mercury is best seen in February/March, June/July and October. The early March appearance is best.

Planet Mercury - Observing

Venus

Venus, the dazzling morning or evening star, outshines all the other stars and planets in the night sky. It begins the year in the evening sky, in good view in the west as darkness begins to fall. It stages a spectacular encounter with Jupiter in mid-March. It will disappear from view in May as it passes between Earth and the Sun. In fact, Venus will pass across the face of the Sun on June 6, staging its last transit for more than a century. The planet will return to view as a “morning star” a few days after the transit, and will remain there for the rest of the year.

Observing Venus

Mars

Mars puts on its best showing early in the year, when it shines like a brilliant orange star. The planet is at opposition in early March, when it passes closest to Earth and shines brightest. As the year progresses, it will fade as it moves farther from Earth. Mars will huddle close to Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, in late March and early April, then stage beautiful close encounters with Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, in mid-August, and the planet Saturn a few days later.

Jupiter

The largest planet in our solar system, and the second-brightest object in the night sky after the Moon, begins the year quite high in the south at nightfall. It will stage a beautiful encounter with Venus, the “evening star,” in March. Jupiter will disappear in the Sun's glare in late April, then return to view in the dawn sky in late May. The planet's best appearance comes in December, when it lines up opposite the Sun in our sky. It will shine at its brightest for the year and remain visible all night.

Saturn

Saturn looks like a bright golden star. It spends all but the last part of December in the constellation Virgo, the virgin. Saturn is at its best in April, when it is closest to Earth. It disappears behind the Sun in early October, then returns to view in the morning sky in November.

Uranus

Although it is the third-largest planet in the solar system, Uranus is so far from the Sun that you need binoculars to see it. It begins the year in the western sky at sunset, then disappears behind the Sun in late March and early April, after which it returns to view in the morning sky. Uranus stages its best appearance in late September, when it is at its brightest and is in the sky all night. The best chance to see it, however, comes around February 8-10, when the planet is in the same binocular field of view with Venus, the brilliant “evening star.”

Neptune

The fourth-largest planet in the solar system is so far away that you need a telescope to find it. Neptune stages its best appearance in late Aug

 
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Constellation Guide

The International Astronomical Union recognizes 88 constellations covering the entire northern and southern sky. Here is a selection of the most familiar and easily seen constellations in the northern sky.



How did the constellations get their names?

Most constellation names are Latin in origin, dating from the Roman empire, but their meanings often originated in the distant past of human civilization. Scorpius, for instance, was given its name from the Latin word for scorpion, but ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs from before 3000 B.C. refer to the star group as "Ip," the scorpion king. Orion, the hunter, bears a Greek name, but had been seen as a hunter-hero figure since the times of ancient Babylon.

Of course, many of the constellation names are more modern -- Telescopium, the telescope, being a rather obvious newcomer. In fact, by the 19th century the night sky had become crowded with overlapping and often contradictory constellation boundaries and names as different schools of astronomy prepared their own versions of star maps. To clear up the confusion, names and boundaries were "officially" assigned to 88 constellations by the International Astronomical Union in 1930, providing complete coverage of the entire sky.

How do the signs of the zodiac relate to astronomy?

Though many people start their days by checking their horoscope in the newspaper, the 12 constellations of the zodiac are no more important to astronomers than the other 76 constellations.

The significance of the zodiac stems from the fact that the ecliptic -- the narrow path on the sky that the Sun, Moon, and planets appear to follow -- runs directly through these star groupings. Since ancient times, the Sun, Moon, and planets have been known as special astronomical objects -- they "wander" through the background stars of the zodiac, which remain fixed with respect to each other. It was reasoned that these zodiacal constellations must be special to make up this path, and the relative positions of the "wandering stars" within them bore great importance.

True scientific astronomy has its roots in the attempts of ancient astrologers to predict future occurrences of, for instance, imperial Jupiter and the blood-red planet Mars meeting within the charging bull of Taurus -- a potentially powerful omen for those who believed the planets represented the gods themselves.



Planet Viewing - which planets are up for a show
 
APRIL 2012
April 24 2012

CRESCENT MOON ALERT: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west into the twilight. You might see something like this:

Image of the Crescent Moon with only 1% of the disc iluminated by the Sun, and where it is clearly visible the Earthshine effect. Below the bridge we can see the Planet Jupiter. The image was taken from Almada, facing to Lisbon and to the 25 April bridge. Copyright:Miguel Claro

Miguel Claro photographed the crescent moon from Almada, Portugal. "Look just below the bridge," he points out. "You can also see Jupiter."

The slender crescent will be beaming through the twilight for the next few evenings. On Tuesday, April 24th, it will glide by Venus for a spectacular sunset conjunction. Don't miss it!

more images: from Stefano De Rosa of Turin, Italy; from Robert Arn of Fort Collins, CO; from Russell Vallelunga of Phoenix, Arizona; from M. Rasid Tugral of Ankara, Turkiye; from Zain Ahmed of Karachi, Pakistan

April 22 2012


LOW SUNSET CONJUNCTION: If you have a clear view of the western horizon, look there tonight, Sunday April 22nd, just after the sun goes down. Jupiter is shining close to an exquisitely-thin crescent Moon. It's a nice photo-op. images: #1 , #2 , #3 , #4 .

April 19 2012

Panasonic Team to Lug Solar-charged Batteries up Mt. Fuji, Live-stream Eclipse - Panasonic will broadcast live a solar eclipse next month over Japan from the top of Mount Fuji, using batteries that are charged at the base using solar power and then carried up to the peak.

The company will use the event to create publicity for its solar panels and rechargeable portable power units. Panasonic said all video cameras, PCs, and other equipment used for the broadcast will be powered by solar energy. The team will consist of mountain guides and engineers, as well as some participants chosen from the general public.

A rare solar eclipse, in which the moon passes between the earth and the sun, is to take place over Japan on the morning of May 21. The event will be visible from a large swath of the country, including Tokyo, and later from parts of the U.S., including California, Nevada and Arizona.

Panasonic has created a web site to promote the project, as well as a YouTube video

The company is one of the world's largest makers of rechargeable batteries, including the batteries widely used in laptops and portable electronics. It also owns advanced solar panel technology, much of which it acquired when it bought Sanyo Electric and made it into a subsidiary in 2010.

Mount Fuji, which is about 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) high, is Japan's highest peak as well as a cultural icon. It is still typically covered in snow and ice in May, although it is a popular climb for tourists during the summer months.

Source



April 15 2012

SATURN'S RINGS AT THEIR BEST: On Sunday, April 15th, Saturn is at opposition--directly opposite the sun in the skies of Earth. The ringed planet rises at sunset and soars high in the sky at midnight , up all night long. This is the time when Saturn's rings are at their best. From the point of view of Earth, shadows in the ring plane almost completely disappear (just as your own shadow tries to hide beneath your feet at noon) and sunlight is directly backscattered by icy ring particles toward our planet.

Amateur astronomer Christopher Go photographed the brightening rings on April 12th:

"Saturn is close to opposition and the rings are brightening. This is the Seeliger Effect ," says Go. "Also a Northern Electrostatic Disturbance, which was detected by Cassini a few days ago, can be seen as a white patch north of the green belt."

Saturn is easy to find. Look south at midnight. The ringed planet forms a "double star" with Spica. [ sky map ]

more images: from Efrain Morales Rivera of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico



April 13 2012

International Dark Sky Week 14 - 20 April, 2012
- Celebrate the stars! Created in 2003 by high-school student Jennifer Barlow, IDSW has grown to become a worldwide event and a key component of Global Astronomy Month . The goals of IDSW are to appreciate the beauty of the night sky and to raise awareness of how poor-quality lighting creates light pollution.

Light pollution is a growing problem. Not only does it have detrimental effects on our views of the night sky, but it also disrupts the natural environment, wastes energy, and has the potential to cause health problems.

Here are some ways that you can spread the word about IDSW during April 14-20 — and all year long: http://www.darksky.org/idsw

For more information, here are some great resources to learn about outdoor lighting and light pollution:
Global Astronomy Month , your gateway to a month-long celebration of the cosmos.
GLOBE at Night , a citizen-science program to measure light pollution from your own back yard 11-20 April, 2012.
Where to Buy lighting fixtures that are dark-sky friendly
IDA Practical Guides and brochures that explain light pollution's negative effects.




April 11 2012


LYRID METEOR SHOWER:
Earth is approaching the debris field of ancient Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on April 21-22; a nearly-new moon on those dates will provide perfect dark-sky conditions for meteor watching. Usually the shower is mild (10-20 meteors per hour) but unmapped filaments of dust in the comet's tail sometimes trigger outbursts 10 times stronger. [ video ] [ Lyrid chat ] [ more ]


April 5 2012

HEAVENLY DEJA VU:
At first glance, the picture below looks exactly like thousands of others taken this week as Venus passed through the Pleaides star cluster. Look again. The date in the corner says "April 1972." Richard Keen of Boulder, Colorado, took the picture 40 years ago:

Talk about deja vu!

"Thanks to its orbit, Venus' appearance in the sky repeats itself almost exactly every 8 years," explains Keen. "Forty years ago, on April 2, 1972, Venus passed by the Pleiades only half a degree from its position two days ago. It's fun to compare this photo I took back in 1972 with this week's wonderful images."

Venus is exiting the Pleiades now, but as Keen's snapshot shows, there will be a next time--eight years from now to be exact. The next Venus-Pleaides conjunction is due in April 2020. Until then....

more images: from Fred Espenak of Portal, Arizona; from Kamila Mazurkiewicz of Pulawy, Poland; from Jimmy Westlake of Steamboat Springs, Colorado; from Efe Tuncel of Ankara, Turkey; from Fritz Helmut Hemmerich of Tenerife (Canary Islands); from Marion Haligowski of Phoenix, Arizona; from Aaron Top of Shallow Lake, Ontario; from Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland; from M. Rasid Tugral of Ankara, Turkiye; from Ugur Ikizler of Mudanya - Bursa / Turkey; from Gadi Eidelheit of Givat Shmuel, Israel

April 4 2012

EIGHT SISTERS:
For one more night, the Seven Sisters are actually Eight. Look west after sunset to see Venus on the outskirts of the Pleiades star cluster, temporarily adding its bright light to the cluster's delicate luminosity. Amateur astronomer Doug Zubenel photographed the conjunction last night from DeSoto, Kansas:

"The view of Venus, an eighth sister among the Pleiades framed by branches bearing freshly opened oak leaves, was nothing short of mind-blowing!!" he says.

Tonight, Venus exits the cluster, so this is your last chance to see a meeting that occurs only once every 8 years. Don't miss it .

more images: from Fred Espenak of Portal, Arizona; from Kamila Mazurkiewicz of Pulawy, Poland; from Jimmy Westlake of Steamboat Springs, Colorado; from Efe Tuncel of Ankara, Turkey; from Fritz Helmut Hemmerich of Tenerife (Canary Islands); from Marion Haligowski of Phoenix, Arizona; from Aaron Top of Shallow Lake, Ontario; from Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland; from M. Rasid Tugral of Ankara, Turkiye; from Ugur Ikizler of Mudanya - Bursa / Turkey


April 3 2012

VENUS INVADES THE PLEIADES:
This week, Venus and the Pleiades star cluster will meet in the evening sky for a rare and beautiful conjunction. Get the full story from Science@NASA. Images: #1 , #2 , #3 , #4 , #5 .

CATCH THE CONJUNCTION! When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look west. The planet Venus is in conjunction with the Pleiades star cluster. This only happened once every eight years, so don't miss it !

Last night in Pulawy, Poland, photographer Kamila Mazurkiewicz was determined to catch the meeting:

"Venus and the Pleiades were like diamonds in the sky," says Mazurkiewicz. "It was a beautiful sight."

Although the conjunction may be seen with the unaided eye, it is even more beautiful through a small telescope, binoculars, or the lens of a camera. Regard this magnificent close-up from David A. Harvey of Tucson, Arizona. His camera settings are available for readers who wish to try a similar composition.

Connecting the dots, the brightest stars of the Pleiades resemble a tiny dipper. Tonight, April 3rd, Venus will brush the bottom of the dipper's bowl--a very close encounter indeed. Enjoy the show!

more images: from Alan Dyer of Gleichen, Alberta; from Gary A. Becker of Coopersburg, PA; from the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project of Atlanta, GA; from Daniel J. Linek of Oneonta, NY; from Joe McBride of Grand Rapids, MI; from Aaron Top of Shallow Lake Ontario Canada; from Chris Pruzenski of Hemlock, NY; from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine

Mars Forms Triangle with Moon and Star Tonight The planet will form a cosmic triangle with the moon, Mars and the bright star Regulus. Read more



MARCH 2012
March 31 2012

HOW TO EXPLORE AN EARTH-LIKE PLANET LIGHT YEARS AWAY:
With NASA's Kepler spacecraft discovering alien worlds at a record pace, it seems to be just a matter of time before an Earth-sized planet is found in the "Goldilocks zone"--that is, in an orbit sized just right for liquid water and life. In today's story from Science@NASA, researchers discuss how they'll explore a cousin of Earth so many light years away. video

ScienceCasts: Getting to Know the Goldilocks Planet
Visit http://science.nasa.gov/ for more.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft is discovering a veritable avalanche of alien worlds. As the numbers mount, it seems to be just a matter of time before Kepler finds what astronomers are really looking for: an Earth-like planet orbiting its star in the "Goldilocks zone".

March 26 2012

Planet Venus Visible in Daytime Sky Today: How to See It

Did you know that President Abraham Lincoln spotted Venus in the daytime in 1865?
http://www.space.com/ 15036-venus-daylight-skywatchin g-tips.html





CELESTIAL TRIANGLE: They're at it again. Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon are in conjunction, forming a bright triangle in the sunset sky. On Sunday evening, March 25th, Alexandre Croisier photographed the trio from the Pointe of Dinan in Brittany, France:

"They are easy to see with the naked eye," says Croisier, "and they look great through a telescope, too."

The triangle will appear again on Monday evening, March 26th, although the vertices will be shifted as the Moon glides from Jupiter to Venus. Observing tip: Look before the sky fades completely black. Bright planets are extra-beautiful when they are framed by twilight blue. Sky maps: March 25 , March 26 .

more images: from Petr Horálek at Lichnice castle, Podhradi, Czech republic; from Sylvain Weiller of Saint Rémy lès Chevreuse, France; from M. Rasid Tugral of Eymir Gölü, Ankara, Turkiye; from Piotr Potepa of Torun, Poland; from Martin McKenna of White Park Bay Beach, Antrim Coast, N. Ireland; from Stefano De Rosa of Turin (Italy); from P-M Hedén of Waldemars Cape, Stockholm Sweden; from Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Paloznak, Hungary; from Roger Schneider of Brugg Switzerland; from Szymon Seweryn of Cracow, Poland; from Alan C Tough of Elgin, Moray, Scotland; from Christophe Stolz of Köniz, Switzerland; from Stephan Brügger of Lübeck, Germany

March 24 2012

Stargazing Information | Source

The planets dominate this month, particularly during the evening. As night falls, Venus and Jupiter shine forth in the west, the second- and third-brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon. Venus is below Jupiter as March begins, but climbs past it mid-month. While they dominate the west, Mars takes charge in the east. It rises around sunset and remains in the sky all night. It is brightest for the year, too, forming a brilliant orange beacon.

This Week's Stargazing Tips

March 23, 2012
The current North Star, Polaris, forms the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. Over thousands of years, though, Earth's axis wobbles, so it points at different stars. Five millennia ago, it pointed at Thuban in Draco, so Thuban was the North Star.

March 24, 2012
Two bright planets stand above the crescent Moon early this evening. Jupiter is to the upper left of the Moon and looks like a brilliant star. Brighter Venus is directly above Jupiter as night falls, shining as the dazzling “evening star.”

March 25, 2012
Jupiter, the giant of the solar system is just to the lower left of the Moon this evening, and looks like a brilliant star. The even brighter planet Venus stands above them.

March 26, 2012 The bright golden planet Saturn rises in mid evening, close to the left of Spica, the brightest star of the constellation Virgo. The pair arcs high across the south during the night.

March 27, 2012
Spring arrived in the northern hemisphere a week ago, but the most prominent stars of winter remain in good view. They form a big loop known as the Winter Circle, which is in the southwestern quadrant of the sky in mid evening.

March 28, 2012
The constellation Crater, the cup, is visible this month in the southeastern evening sky. Its stars are faint so you need dark skies to find it. To ancient European cultures, Crater represented the birthplace of storms.

March 29, 2012
Canis Major, the big dog, is in the south-southwest in early evening. It features the night's brightest star, Sirius. The lesser dog is above it, featuring the eighth-brightest star, Procyon.

Check last week's tips if you missed a day.


March 23 2012

SUNSET SKY SHOW, AGAIN: A month ago, Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon aligned beautifully for evening sky watchers around the world. It's about to happen again. On March 24th, 25th and 26th, the trio will appear side by side in the western sky at sunset. Observing tip: Catch them before the sky fades completely black. These bright objects are extra-beautiful when they are framed by twilight blue. Sky maps: March 24 , 25 , 26 .

Looking for something to do while you're waiting for the Moon to arrive? Try juggling:

"Thanks to my girlfriend for helping me me create these planet action shots on March 22nd," says photographer Kiss Csongor of Derecske, Hungary.

more images: from Danny Ratcliffe of Scarborough, Queensland, Australia; from Johnathan A. Esper of Lake Durant, Adirondack Park, New York; from Petr Horálek of Ústupky, Sec reservoir, Czech republic; from Ahmed Al Ali of Sharjah Desert Park, United Arab Emirates; from Veerayen of Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia; from Jean-Baptiste Feldmann of France; from John Stetson of Sebago Lake, Maine

March 22 2012

March 2012 guide to the five visible planets


March 20 2012
Tour the Planets: Jupiter and Venus Conjunction Live Chat

March 19 2012

SCINTILLATION SQUIGGLES: Everyone knows that stars twinkle but planets do not. The reason has to do with angular size. Stars are distant pinpricks smaller than the thermal irregularities in Earth's atmosphere that refract their light. Each packet of air that passes in front of a star produces a well-defined change in color or brightness. Planets, on the other hand, are relatively nearby and wide; they span many atmospheric irregularities, which tends to smooth out the prismatic action.

Photographer Monika Landy-Gyebnar of Veszprem, Hungary, has found a kinetic way to demonstrate the effect. "When photographing a star or planet, kick the tripod during the exposure." She's applied this technique to many stars and planets, and the resulting collection of squiggles reveals the character of their twinkles:

"If we take a photo of a star with a shaking camera, the result is a wavy line with many colors," she points out. "If we photograph a planet, however, there is no change; the color and width of the squiggle are nearly constant."

The scintillation effect is greatest for stars near the horizon, which must shine through a greater distance of turbulent atmosphere. Angles noted in the image above are altitudes. The lowest-hanging stars display the strongest and most colorful twinkling.

"Demonstrating this is a 'must-do' thing when you give a lecture or show on astronomical observations for novices," she concludes. Observing tips and more of Landy-Gyebnar's "scintillation squiggles" may be found here .


March 15 2012

SUNSET CONJUNCTION: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Venus and Jupiter are beaming through the twilight less than 4 o apart. Sky watchers of all ages, and species, are enjoying the show:

"I was out last night walking the dogs," explains photographer Robert Hanelt of Santa Fe, New Mexico. "We just had to stop to admire the planets."

Observing tip: Try to catch the duo before the sky fades completely black. Venus and Jupiter surrounded by twilight blue is a barking-good sight.

more images: from Peter Detterline of Douglassville, PA; from Aleksandar Gospic of Zadar, Croatia; from Geoff Chester of Alexandria, Virginia; from Stanislaw Rokita of Torun, Poland; from Andreas Walker of Altenrhein, Switzerland; from Sue Stefanowicz of Oregon, IL; from Manfred Birawsky of Krefeld, Germany; from Marco Meniero of Pisa, Toscany, Italy; from Alan Dyer of near Calgary, Alberta, Canada; from Mike O'Leary of El Cajon, CA; from De Martin of Bagley, Wisconsin; from Bev Teter of Falkville, AL; from Gustavo Rojas of São Carlos, SP, Brasil


March 13 2012

VENUS-JUPITER CONJUNCTION: This is a great week to admire the sunset. Venus and Jupiter are side-by-side only 3 o apart in the western sky, beaming through the twilight as soon as the sun goes down. Photographer Marek Nikodem of Szubin, Poland, recorded the scene at nightfall on March 12th: http://spaceweather.com/submissions/large_image_popup.php?image_name=Marek-Nikodem-DSC_0714_1331600807.jpg

"Venus and Jupiter are like two lanterns illuminating the darkness," says Nikodem. "It's a wonderful sight."

The two planets are closest together on March 12th and March 13th . Try to catch them before the sky fades completely black. Venus and Jupiter surrounded by twilight blue is a wonderful sight indeed.

more images: from Jimmy Westlake of Stagecoach, Colorado; from Peter Wine of Dayton, Ohio; from Laurent Laveder of Pluguffan, Brittany, France; from Rhiannon Palframan of Cookham Dean, Berkshire, UK; from John Cordiale of Edgecomb Pond, Bolton NY; from Ulf Jonsson of Luleå, Sweden; from Alexander Birkner of Eppelborn, Germany; from Diana Bodea of Ibiza, Spain; from Andrey A. Belkin of Moscow, Russia; from Vesa Vauhkonen of Rautalampi, Finland; from Mitchell Krog of Magaliesburg, South Africa; from Sven Melchert of Stuttgart, Germany; from Bob Northup of Studio City CA

Read More: Earthlings Dazzled by Venus-Jupiter Close Encounter On March 13, the two planets will drift to their closest point in the night sky, dazzling observers.


March 12 2012

SUNSET PLANETS: This is a great week to admire the sunset. Venus and Jupiter are side-by-side only 3 o apart in the western sky, beaming through the twilight as soon as the sun goes down. "We have a wild tree in our front yard just begging for a set of eyes," says photographer Jeff Brown of Selah, Washington. "Jupiter and Venus worked perfectly." http://spaceweather.com/submissions/large_image_popup.php?image_name=Jeff-Brown-eyes_1331527280.jpg

The two bright planets seem to inspire photographic creativity. In Wiltshire, England, Richard Fleet measured their angular separation using a pair of cat's ears , while photographer Claus Vogel of Ottawa, Ontario, tried his hand at planet painting .

March 11 2012

CONVERGING PLANETS: Venus and Jupiter are converging for a remarkably close encounter. On March 12th and 13th the two bright planets will lie scarcely 3 o apart in the western sky at sunset. Marek Nikodem photographed the approach on March 9th: http://spaceweather.com/submissions/large_image_popup.php?image_name=Marek-Nikodem-DSC_0663_1331426856.jpg

"Venus and Jupiter glitter so clearly, they are like beautiful diamonds in the sky," says Nikodem. "It is an amazing and unique view."

As the distance between them shrinks, Venus and Jupiter can become physiologically mesmerizing, according to NASA. Look for them before the sky fades completely black. The two planets surrounded by twilight blue is a beautiful sight indeed. [ Sky maps: March 12 , 13 ]

more images: from Gary A. Becker of Coopersburg, PA; from Chris Cook at Mt. Wilson Observatory, California; from Stefano De Rosa of Turin (Italy); from Kat of Northeast Philadelphia, PA; from Joel Linao of Mirdiff, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; from Stefano De Rosa of Turin (Italy)


March 7 2012

THE MOON AND MARS: This week, Mars is at its closest to Earth for all of 2012. The Red Planet is easy to find: On March 7th it's right beside the full Moon. Go outside after sunset and look for the Moon and Mars rising together in the east. [ sky map ]

Last night in Cobourg, Ontario, photographer Malcolm Park caught the Moon and Mars converging.
"[High clouds] created this lovely view from my back yard of an ice halo around the moon, with Mars inside punctuated by a high altitude contrail," says Park.

more images: from Gregg Alliss of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; from Luigi Fiorentino of Bari, Italy; from Heiko Ulbricht of Freital, Saxony, Germany; from Mihail of Yaroslavl, Russia; from Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project of Atlanta, GA



March 6 2012

CONVERGING PLANETS: Go outside at sunset and look west. Venus and Jupiter are converging there for a 3o conjunction on March 12th and 13th. Even now, more than a week away from closest approach, the bright duo are a wonder to behold.

"They are like glowing lamps in the sky," says photographer M. Rasid Tugral, who created this astronomical self-portrait at his home in Ankara, Turkey. "I really enjoyed them tonight and also the reddish planet Mars."

As the distance between Venus and Jupiter shrinks, something interesting happens. The converging pair can actually become physiologically, according to NASA. Do you find these planets hypnotic?
March 5 2012

CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MARS: Today, Mars is at its closest to Earth for 2012. The Red Planet is only 101 million km away and shines about six times brighter than a 1st magnitude star. Look for it in the eastern sky at sunset. The burnt-orange color of Mars is very distinctive, especially when seen from rural areas with clear skies. [sky map]
Images: #1, #2, #3

March 5 sky event: Mercury is at greatest eastern elongation, its best appearance of 2012, 10h UT (5 a.m. EST),


March 4 2012
LOOK, THEN TURN AROUND: Just after sunset, as the evening sky fades to blue, Venus and Jupiter emerge from the twilight arrestingly close together in the western sky. Martin McKenna photographed the pair last night above the moonlit ruins o f Downhill Estate in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland

"Venus and Jupiter looked so beautiful," says McKenna, "They were simply stunning!!"

The two bright planets are converging for a 3o close encounter on March 12-13 that NASA says could be physiologically mesmerizing. They are so bright, you can see them through city lights and even thin clouds.

Done looking? Turn around. Another planet, almost as bright and more beautifully colored can be found rising in the east. Mars is putting on a show of its own opposite Venus and Jupiter. The Red Planet is at its closest to Earth for all of 2012 on March 5th. It appears at sunset and soars overhead at midnight--an easy target for the naked eye and backyard telescopes alike.
sky map
March 3 2012

Mars, Venus and Jupiter Appear Closest In March - Skywatching Video
The Red Planet's nearest approach to us occurs as the Morning Star and the Largest Gas Giant appear together for a planetary spectacle in March 2012. The spring equinox brings about the Sun-Earth Day celebration and Comet Garrard joins the party.

Mars Swings Into Opposition March 3 - Every two years and two months the Earth and Mars line up with the Sun, giving us a relatively close view of the red planet. Cynthia Graber reports

Online broadcast will begin on Saturday at 11 pm Eastern time. Head over to the online Slooh Space Camera

Skymap | Mars Visible in Night Sky, But Its 2 Moons Are Hard to Spot


What's Up for March 2012? http://www.nasa.gov/mp4/ 627293main_whatsup20120301- 320.mp4

What's Up for March.

View Mars at opposition and planet highlights galore.
Not a week goes by this month when there isn't an amazing planetary view.

On March 3 Mars reaches opposition, when it's closest to Earth in its 2-year orbit. This year Mars won't be very close, though. At best, it will be 63 million miles or 112 million kilometers from Earth.
At each future opposition until 2018, Mars will be closer to Earth and will appear even more impressive.
Even though you'll need a telescope to see any markings -- like the north polar cap -- it's fun to imagine where NASA's Mars landers and rovers are.
The Phoenix lander site is not too far from the north pole, while the rovers Spirit and Opportunity are closer to the equator of Mars.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover will land in Gale Crater in August.

On March 5 Mercury reaches its highest altitude in the sunset sky. You'll easily see its phase through a telescope.

Have you been watching Jupiter and Venus, the two bright planets in the west? On March 12 and 13 they meet and pass one another. Venus is the brighter of the two, and through a telescope you can see its half-lit phase.

Use the moon as a guide to Mars on March 7 late in the evening. And let the moon guide you to Saturn on the 10th and 11th.

At sunset on the 25th look for the moon near Jupiter. On the 26th it's near Venus.

If you didn't catch Comet Garradd last month, don't worry. It's still putting on a great display this month. Look between the Big and Little Dippers to see it through a telescope, even from your back yard in the city.

March 20 is Sun-Earth Day. Many people around the world will celebrate it on or near the spring Equinox: March 19 or 20 with safe solar viewing parties, the only way you should ever look directly at the sun.

And there should be more safe solar viewing parties for the June 5 transit of Venus. Lucky observers will see the planet Venus as it crosses the disc of the sun.

A great way to prepare yourself for this is to find a local astronomy club or look for sky-watching events at your local museum.

You can check out amazing solar images, including sunspots, flares and storms on the sun at NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory website.

And you can learn about all of NASA's missions to the solar system and beyond at www.NASA.gov .

That's all for this month.

Jane Houston Jones.
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/podcasting/whatsup2012March.html




March 1 2012
Mercury at its best in the evening sky - The innermost planet puts on its best evening show of 2012 during the first week of March.

Multicolor Venus

Explanation: Brilliant Venus now shines in western skies at twilight. Seen as the prominent evening star, the planet is a tantalizing celestial beacon even for casual skygazers. Venus can offer less than satisfying telescop ic views though. The planet is shrouded in reflective clouds that appear bright but featureless at the eyepiece. Still, careful imaging with a series of color filters, as used in these composite images, can reveal subtle cloud patterns. Captured early last month from a backyard observatory in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA, the images are based on video camera frames. The data was recorded through near-ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared filters (left), and red, green, and blue filters while Venus stood high above the western horizon just before sunset. This season's evening apparition of Venus is the best one for northern hemisphere observers in 7 years. It will ultimately end with a solar transit of the planet, the last one to occur in your lifetime, on June 5/6. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ ap120301.html
FEBRUARY 2012

Feb 29 2012

AFTER-IMAGES: The planetary conjunction of Feb. 26-27 is over now, but photographers are still processing and submitting their images. For sky watchers who missed the show, here is one last round of images, beginning with a video from an abandoned ski run in northern Nebraska

"The combination of planets with pale moon light, deep twilight colors, and the motion blur of clouds during a long exposure was enthralling," says photographer Chris Allington.

As the three-way meeting of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon breaks up, attention turns to the other side of the sky where Mars is approaching Earth for a close encounter on March 3-5. "Turn your back on the dazzling duo of Jupiter and Venus and you can see the third bright planet of the season rising in the east -- Mars!" says astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake of Stagecoach, Colorado. He took this picture of the red planet on Feb. 27th.

Ski Lift/ Planetary Conjunction Time Lapse
A brief time lapse video from the last couple of nights during the planetary conjunction of Venus and Jupiter with the moon. I shot these images below an abandoned ski lift in the hills of Northeast Nebraska. All images were taken using a Canon Rebel T1i with a Sigma 8-16mm at f/4.5 at 1600 iso. I had to brighten the sequences some while processing the video so that you could see the foreground a little better, which led to blowing out the moon in these scenes.

Song: Thursday- Running From The Rain

To see more go to http://www.intotherfd.com

 
 
Feb 28 2012

See 5 Bright Planets in Night Sky—First Time in 8 Years Find out when and where to see naked-eye objects this week.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/02/120228-planets-moon-night-sky-venus-jupiter-space-science/

Update: MARS AT OPPOSITION: Mars is approaching opposition. On March 3-5, the Red Planet will be up all night long, opposite the sun and as close to Earth as it will get in 2012. Mars shines overhead at midnight 6 times brighter than a 1st magnitud e star and looks great through a backyard telescope.
sky map
[photos: #1, #2, #3


WEEKEND SKY SHOW: This weekend's triangular conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon was just as good as advertised. On the beach at Edgecomb Pond in Bolton Landing, New York, amateur a stronomer John Cordiale found the bright threesome surrounded by a 22o ice halo
Image

"I was photographing the alignment when high thin clouds rolled in," says Cordiale. "They threatened to ruin the view, but then this halo encircled Jupiter, Venus and the Moon, framing them perfectly."

As the week unfolds, the Moon will leave Jupiter and Venus behind, but the show isn't over. The two planets are converging for a close encounter on March 12th and 13th--an event so nice it has been described in a NASA news release

Feb 27 2012
Pavel Kantsurov sends this picture taken just hours ago from Norilsk, Russia
"Even the industrial landscape looked beautiful with the planets shining above," says Kantsurov.

Feb 26 2012
Update: LOOK WEST AT SUNSET: Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon are beaming through the evening twilight, forming a bright triangle visible through city lights and even thin clouds. Try to catch them before the sky fades completely black. The tri o surrounded by twilight blue is an especially beautiful sight. Sky maps: Feb. 25 , Feb. 26.
WEEKEND SKY SHOW: The show is underway. Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon have gathered to form a bright scalene triangle in the sunset sky. Photographer Tamas Abraham sends this self-portrait from Zsambek, Hungary

The Moon is shining beside Venus, while Jupiter hovers above. "It was a beautiful conjunction," says Abraham.

If you miss the arrangement on Saturday night, try Sunday. The triangle will appear again, just as bright but with vertices shifted: sky map. If possible, look before the sunset sky fades completely black. Venus, Jupiter and the Moon surrounded by twilight blue is an especially beautiful sight.

Attention Stargazers: Venus, Jupiter and the Moon Will Align for Dazzling Weekend Show

Feb 25 2012


WEEKEND SKY SHOW: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Jupiter, Venus and the crescent Moon are converging for a beautiful three-way encounter in the sunset sky. Last night, Rafael Schmall photographed the trio over Somogy, Hungary

From upper left to lower right, the lights are Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon--all three bright enough to beam through wispy clouds.

On Saturday, Feb. 25th, the line will collapse to form a skinny triangle: sky map. It happens again on Sunday, Feb. 26th, with shifted vertices: sky map. Try to look before the sunset sky fades completely black. Venus, Jupiter and the Moon surrounded by twilight blue is an especially beautiful sight. This is such a nice event, NASA has issued a news release and video about it

 

 
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