Saturday, May 7, 2011

Planetary Conjunction

Dear Madame L,

I know you don't truck with horoscopes. (I don't know what "truck with" means, but I heard some famous person say it recently. Possibly Donald Trump. Because "truck" and "Trump" kind of sound the same.)

But what about planetary conjunctions? Don't they have some significance? (I'm asking because I heard there's a planetary conjunction coming up this week, and I want to be ready in case it signals the end of the Earth. Or whatever.)

Sincerely (or not),

Looking up at the Stars All Night

Dear Stargazer,

Well, you're right about one thing: Madame L certainly does not truck with horoscopes. But if you think planetary conjunctions have some significance, you're wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

For her readers for whom the term "planetary conjunctions" is new, these are when we can see, from Earth, some of the other planets "line up" or be grouped close enough together that we can see them on the same night, evening, or early morning.

There's a planetary conjunction coming up next week, in fact. Problem is, if you were anywhere else in the universe, three or four planets being visible at a time would mean nothing to you, Madame L, or anyone else.

So while superstitious folks and those with little or no knowledge of how the universe works may think the planets lining up represent some kind of portent, they're wrong.

It would be beautiful to see the four planets on May 12, though. Look up to the eastern sky just before the sun comes up. You should be able to see Venus and Jupiter --- the brightest objects in the night sky, after the moon. You may also be able to see Mercury down and to the right of Venus. And, down and to the left of Jupiter, you may be able to see Mars. Binoculars will help you see Mercury and Mars.

Keep on looking up,

Madame L

1 comment:

AskTheGeologist said...


BTW: Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are generally easy to see, but Mercury is rarely seen because of its size and proximity to the Sun. This is a rare opportunity to see this elusive, smoldering planet that is only just slightly larger than our Moon. In fact, there are two other moons in the Solar System that are larger than Mercury: Jupiter's Ganymede and Saturn's Titan.