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Mercury Joins Great Planet Alignment ^ | 4/26/02 | Joe Rao

Posted on 04/26/2002 5:05:36 PM PDT by NormsRevenge

During the past couple of weeks, skywatchers around the world have been observing the western evening sky soon after sundown, as four naked-eye planets -- Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter - have stretched out in a long line. The line has slowly contracted each night, as the four planets draw closer to each other.

Even the Moon got involved, closely passing each of the four planets over a span of five nights in mid-April.

Now through the first days of May will likely be the best time to see yet a fifth planet: Mercury. Mercury has actually been visible for the past week, shining nearly as bright as Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and setting nearly an hour after the Sun.

Somewhat challenging to spot because it has been so near the horizon, Mercury has been getting progressively higher every evening.

This week, using the incredibly bright Venus as a guide, search the area of the sky below and to the right of Venus about ½-hour after sunset. Using binoculars, watch as Mercury passes just more than 1½ degree south of the Pleiades star cluster on April 29. Each night, Mercury will appear a bit dimmer, but still at least as bright as a zero magnitude star -- easily visible to the unaided eye even under bright city lights.

And despite its low altitude, Mercury should be readily visible, hovering above the western horizon. Meanwhile, higher up, Venus, Mars and Saturn will be grouping into a striking and eye-catching array known as a "trio" by the early part of May.

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: alignment; astronomy; jupiter; mars; mercury; planets; saturn; science; venus
Just another day in the ol' universe! But don't miss this. It don't happen very often.


1 posted on 04/26/2002 5:05:36 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge
This could be the first time many have actually seen Mercury. It is not an easy object since you have to plan an observation, not like Venus which is the Morning Star or Evening star frequently. Mercury is just too close to the sun, which means there is a short time after sunset when the planet is visible before the planet also sets.
2 posted on 04/26/2002 5:10:48 PM PDT by RightWhale
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

To: toddhisattva
Next thing you know we'll have "peacekeeping" missions to Uranus.

Hey, you stay the h**l out of my anus.

4 posted on 04/26/2002 5:19:51 PM PDT by TomB
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To: NormsRevenge
Cool sky screen saver (including planetary locations) here
5 posted on 04/26/2002 5:26:35 PM PDT by martin_fierro
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To: martin_fierro

If you have kids get it and play with it, very educational.

6 posted on 04/26/2002 5:56:32 PM PDT by George from New England
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To: George from New England
The screen saver works best if you plug in your latitude/longitude coordinates, which you can get here.
7 posted on 04/26/2002 6:06:42 PM PDT by martin_fierro
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