Planets dance in the morning sky (20 April 19 – 31 May 2011)

April 19, 2011 | By | 3 Comments
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Early morning risers are in for a treat between now and the end of May 2011 as the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter engage in a slow ‘dance’ above the Eastern horizon. In ancient days, we probably would have all run around like ‘headless chooks’ because we would have believed that these wandering stars were our Gods, and the fact that they were moving past each other meant bad things were going to happen. Today we know enough about ‘up there’ to understand that the moving stars aren’t Gods but instead are planets moving around the Sun in their own orbits. We also know today that the planets only appear to be near each other and in fact are separated from each other by tens or thousands of millions of kilometers. That said, it will still be a pretty show.

The below charts produced using the free Stellarium astronomy computer program (www.stellarium.org) for an observer based in South East Queensland but will also be useful if you live anywhere in Eastern Australia. Suggested viewing times are stated below each chart.

Finder chart information: Wednesday 20 April 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

On the morning of Wednesday 20 April 2011, Mars and Mercury will be only separated by 0.6 degrees (or just over a Moon width).

Finder chart information: AEST Friday 22 April 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

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Finder chart information: AEST Friday 29 April 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

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Finder chart information: Sunday 1 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

At the start of May 2011, Jupiter and Mars will only be 0.5 degrees apart.

Finder chart information: Monday 2 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

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Finder chart information: Sunday 8 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

On Sunday 8 May 2011, Venus and Mercury will only be separated by 1.5 degrees (three Moon widths).

Finder chart information: ST Thursday 12 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

On 12 May 2011, Venus and Jupiter will only be 0.6 degrees apart (just over one Moon width).

Finder chart information: Monday 16 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

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Finder chart information: Saturday 21 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

Venus and Mars will be 1.1 degrees apart on 23 and 24 May 2011 (Just over two Moon widths).

Finder chart information: Tuesday 31 May 2011. Viewing times (AEST): Brisbane 5.30am, Canberra and Sydney 6 am and Melbourne 6.25am.

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