Planets continue to gather above the Western horizon

August 1, 2010 | By | 3 Comments
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Even if you are only a casual skywatcher, you may have noticed something strange happening in the sky in the evening twilight above the Western horizon. You will have noticed that a number of ‘stars’ appear to be moving towards each other.

Finder chart for Wednesday 4 August 2010. Look above the Western horizon as evening twilight ends.

What you are noticing is a line of sight effect as four of the five planets visible to the unaided eye (Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn) appear to close in on each other. In reality, they are nowhere near each other and are moving peacefully along in their own orbits.

Finder chart for Thursday 12 August 2010. Look above the Western horizon as evening twilight ends.

The sight will continue to improve and change over the next few weeks. Next week will be particularly impressive when the four planets are briefly joined by the crescent Moon (see above finder chart). Keep in mind that you don’t need a telescope to enjoy the above view. Mind you, if you do own a telescope, dust it off and look at Saturn. Even a small telescope will resolve the rings of Saturn. You may not see the rings looking like photographs in books. At present the rings look more like a thin line due to their current orientation relative to the Earth.

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