Have clear skies tonight? Then get outside and look up at the best show in town! For the first time in almost a decade, sky-watchers this week will be able to see all five naked-eye planets over the course of one night for several nights in a row.
The classical naked-eye planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn—can be seen easily without optical aids and so have been known since ancient times.
But the quintet hasn’t appeared together during a single night since 2004.
What’s more, this week’s parade of planets will be joined in the nighttime skies by the waxing crescent to waxing gibbous moon and the superbright stars Sirius and Canopus.
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Here is a quick visual guide to some of the best celestial sights you can see in the last few days of February and early March.
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Skywatchers on February 9th will be treated to a especially close conjunction between the planets Venus and Uranus. The second planet from the Sun will act as wonderful guidepost to finding the third largest planet in the solar system as two worlds sit side by side in the early evening sky,
Usually Uranus is difficult to track down for newbie stargazers because it is so faint in the sky – especially where there is light pollution – making it really only visible through binoculars and telescopes from cities. So with the brightest star-like object, Venus, being right next to the green giant planet – it should be quite easy to spot with nothing more than your binoculars. The two very different worlds will make a nice contrasts not only in brightness, but also in color (Uranus is blue-green and Venus is white). And for those with a small telescope under hi power – the size difference between the two planetary disks will be quite impressive – not surprising since there is nearly a 20 times difference in their distance from us.
For all the observing details and a skychart read my National Geographic blog story.
Tags: Uranus, Venus
Posted in Planets, Solar System | 2 Comments »
Some exoplanets orbiting pairs of stars can end up in a gravitational ping pong match, chaotically bouncing between their two host stars for hundreds of thousands of years, a new study suggests.
According to the new theory based on a complex set of computer simulations, a planet tenuously orbiting around one member of binary star system, can suddenly lose stability and bounce over to the companion star over a course of a few hundred years.
How common could such chaotic planetary systems form and what effect would it have on Earthlike planets? Read my full story at National Geographic News.
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Media interest was high earlier this week about the first ever observation of atoms from outside of the solar system. The discovery not only helps pinpoint our location in the Milky Way galaxy but gives us tantalizing clues to where our Sun was born. Check out my short TV interview on this exciting finding.
EXTRA: Also my latest Night Sky episode showing how to find the great Orion constellation is now online here.
Tags: heliosphere, IBEX, TV
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