Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Rare Astronomical Occurrence

Click the photo to improve it somewhat

Every day while we are staying with my daughter the "old scientist" walks up to the local Library to read the New York Times. Yes we could buy it, or he could read it online as I do, but he likes the constitutional as well as catching up with the news since there is no TV in this house.

As he returned on Monday evening, later than usual, he noticed this rare configuration in the sky. It was a new crescent moon forming a close triangle with the two planets, Venus and Jupiter. I rushed out to take some photos and while most of them were useless I thought this one perhaps worth posting here. While others have talked about it appearing as a smiley face, the configuration did not have that aspect here. Last night the moon was much farther distant from the planets, with clouds in between so there was no chance of getting a better photo.

A few salient facts from the Telegraph where there is a much better photo:
"This certainly is an unusual coincidence for the crescent moon to be right there in the days when they are going to be closest together," said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine.

The moon is the brightest, closest and smallest of the three and is 252,000 miles away. Venus, the second brightest, closest and smallest, is 94 million miles away, while Jupiter is 540 million miles away.

The three celestial objects come together from time to time, but often they are too close to the sun or unite at a time when they are less visible.

The next time the three will be as close and visible as this week will be Nov 18, 2052, according to Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium.

Thanks to Colin Campbell for providing the link to the information and saving me the trouble.


Sean Jeating said...

Lucky, both you and Colin. We were just able to watch following constellation: clouds, clouds, clouds. :)

Crushed said...

At one time this would have been seen as an omen...

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Simi and I saw that, too! How nice to learn more about it.

jams o donnell said...

How fortunate. I wish I had known about it

Dr.John said...

Great picture. Glad you posted it because I doubt I'll see the next time.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I missed it. I really do need to get outside more.

Thanks for sharing your photo and the links.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

I missed it too. Too rainy or too cold over the last few days.

Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe had a good variation on it I liked... A smiley face in the sky ^_^

Ian Lidster said...

Fabulous photo. And thank you for the information. In this pathetic and sad old world I am often happy to travel to reaches well above the fray where all is virtually eternal.

CherryPie said...

I did see the two stars/planets tonight but the moon was nowhere to be seen!

jmb said...

Sean it was a sight indeed. Even if the photos were somewhat dreadful.

Indeed Crushed. Now we can just enjoy the sight.

Lucky you Welshcakes, obviously a clear night in Modica.

Jams I can't believe you missed it because you did not hear about it. I thought you monitored all the science stuff.

Nor me Dr John.

You're welcome Nick. It is cold outside now so I can understand if you do not want to get out more.

Too bad you missed it Moggs. Colin Campbell is Adelaide Green Porridge and I nicked his link with his permission.

It certainly puts things into perspective when one looks up into the sky Ian. We are but grains of sand in the scheme of things.

Of course Cherie, after two days the moon has moved farther away and this close congruence no longer occurs.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Janice Thomson said...

Well the 'smiley' face is there though upside down. Good shot JMB - enjoyed the info about this uncommon event.

Mar said...

Excellent!! I loved it and love your shot. Mine isn't technically any better as it was taken with a small digital cam.
Great thing you posted your picture. After my recent experience, when I submitted a picture just for fun and it was chosen, I learned that we should be proud of the pics we take, they are unique, not everybody can see what we chose to photograph and therefore they must be made public, don't you think ?? :)
it's a great to have a blog to communicate also through pictures.