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Planet Watching Tips for Feb-March 2012

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posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 05:42 PM
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PLANET WATCHING TIPS FOR FEB-MARCH 2012

For those interested in seeing the "Naked Eye Planets" that are all currently visible at the moment, I wanted to share with you some tips on identifying these wonders of the night sky.

Also, for more information, there are a few discussions under way here on ATS...
Planet Alignment right now!
Attention Skywatchers, Great Views Of The Planets Coming Your Way

First lets talk magnitudes. The magnitude of an object in the sky is a measurement of brightness. So knowing a little bit about the magnitudes of these planets will help you identify them in the night sky. The smaller a number on the magnitude scale, the brighter the object is. For comparison sake, an object at about magnitude 5 may need some binoculars, especially in urban areas to view it. The brightest star in the night sky is Sirius which has a magnitude of about −1.5 found just east of Orion, in the constellation Canis Major. The sun itself (Sol) is a whopping -26 mag, while a full moon is -13 mag, and a crescent moon at about -6 mag.

The magnitude of the planets fluctuates due to their orbits around the sun altering the distance they are from Earth. When a planet is "in opposition" it will have a much higher magnitude then normal because because it is opposite the sun in the sky. Only planets beyond Earth can be "in opposition" placing the earth smack dab between the sun and that planet. The increase in magnitude is due to a closer proximity to earth, as well as the side of the planet being viewed from earth is fully illuminated (much like phases of the moon)

Second, planets do not emit light, they reflect sun light. Because of this, planets tend not to flicker like stars due, unless seen close to the horizon where atmospheric distortions can resemble some flickering. This makes it easier when trying to determine if you are looking at a planet or a star in the night sky.

That being said, lets talk planets!

 

MERCURY: Is the toughest of these planets to spot due to it's close proximity to the sun, more so the further away you are from the equator due to the angle of the sun over the horizon. It's brightness varies drastically from about -2 to about 5.5 magnitude, and current magnitude is almost -1 and getting dimmer as we head into spring. Currently visible, it can be found close to the western horizon for about an hour after sunset in the Pisces constellation, and shines with a nice sliver color.

Due to Mercury being so close to the sun, one cool fact is that Mercury is usually visible during total solar eclipses!

 

VENUS: Is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon. Venus is called both the "Morning Star" and the "Evening Star" because it reaches it's maximum brightness either right before sun rise or right after sun set, and can usually be found close to the eastern horizon (morning star) or western horizon (evening star) along the ecliptic. Right now, Venus is the "evening star" and sticks out like a sore thumb after sunset as a bright point of white light with a magnitude of about -4! Also in the Pisces constellation Venus can be viewed for about 3-4 hours after sunset.

Venus is also responsible for much confusion to those with an untrained eye, sometimes being mistaken for a UFO or even Niburu.

 

MARS: Is pretty bright right now as it approaches opposition (March 5th) with a magnitude of 1.2 making it the third brightest of these planets about as bright as Mercury or Sirius. Mars is pretty easy to spot as it clearly has a reddish tint to it. Because Mars is so close to opposition right now, it rises in the east shortly after sunset and will traverse the night sky setting in the west just before sunrise. Mars can be found on the south side of the constellation Leo.

In 2003 Mars was closest to the Earth during opposition then it had been in nearly 60,000 years with a magnitude of just shy of -3!

 

JUPITER: Jupiter has been visible for several months now. Currently at a magnitude of about -2 it is the second brightest of the planets, and the third brightest object in the night sky right now. As we head toward mid March, Jupiter and Venus will move closer and closer to each other, providing a nice spectacle in the night sky. Jupiter has a slightly yellowish tint to it and is as easy to spot as Venus is, sitting just west of it in the sky. Jupiter is visible for about five hours after sunset.

If you have a good pair of binoculars or small telescope you can see the major moons of Jupiter as they shine at about magnitude 5.

 

SATURN: Rising in the east at about the same time Jupiter is setting in the western horizon (shortly before midnight), Saturn is a little more difficult to spot than the rest. It has a magnitude of about 1 making it a bit dimmer than some of the brighter stars in the sky, but still pretty bright. To make Saturn a little easier to spot, it is currently in the Virgo constellation next to Spica in the night sky, a star with a magnitude of almost 1 as well. Under urban lighting the two should stand out pretty well in the night sky together. Saturn is the goldish/yellow one on the south west side of the pair.

A modest wal-mart telescope can be used to view Saturn's rings!

 

Well I hope that helps and I hope you all get a chance to view these objects in the night sky, they truly are a wonder to behold. Keep Looin'




posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 07:46 PM
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Well that was a waste of time, research and effort


Oh well, I know I'll be enjoying the planets



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 08:09 PM
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reply to post by Lighterside
 

Great info and research, it is greatly appreciated..thank you..i will be watching too..S&F from me...

Happy space viewing!!



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 08:12 PM
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reply to post by Lighterside
 


Thanks! It reminded me to check this page that I have stored in my favorites for this year's astronomy events.

This past weekend, I tried to get some pictures of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon, but I don't have a good enough camera. It was really a sight to see. In my area, I had an almost perfect "boat moon".

For February and March in particular, my best bet is 3/13/12 -

Mar- 13th A close Jupiter-Venus conjunction, only 3° degrees apart in dusk skies.

Looking to the near future, I hope to remember to see this one -

June - 5th: Venus transits the face of the Sun as seen from the Earth. This transit will be visible from the eastern US at sunset westward to northeastern Africa and Europe at sunrise… don’t miss this celestial happening of our lifetimes, as another transit won’t be visible until December 11th, 2117!
Totally looking forward to that!



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 08:28 PM
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Hey thanks guys!
I posted this and it was all crickets for over 2 hours lol, kinda left me sad face


I too am looking forward to Jupiter and Venus gettin all touchy feely with each other in mid march, It's too bad it wont last long as the two of them will follow the sun over the horizon shortly after, but it'll be wonderful to see.



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 08:30 PM
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reply to post by harlot7
 

Oh and by the way, thanks for sharing that link! I too have it bookmarked now



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 08:35 PM
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reply to post by Lighterside
 

Hey no problem!

I'd love it if you posted regular threads with planetary alignments and such. It would make a good addition for those less regimented and organized.



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 09:40 PM
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reply to post by Lighterside
 


It's never a waste of time. While people have posted stuff on astronomical events, the dates do tend to change of course. Even meteor showers have different predictions of how much a show they are going to put on each year.

It may not be as "flashy" as a YouTube video of a possible UFO, or a "alien moon base", or some new 2012 prediction, but the difference is, anyone can do Space Exploration with their own 2 eyes.

You might wait forever with camera in hand and never see a UFO. We can't go to the far side of the moon to check on that "base" or "crashed ship" (all though if you have a telescope, you could check on a near side one). And 2012? Ah don't even get me started!

But reminding people of things that they CAN see, simply by stepping outdoors and looking up, is never a waste of time. Especially with all the cool things to see out there!



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 09:49 PM
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sirius is getting closer to jupiter.....will they get really close for december?.....sirius is west of Orion.....



posted on Feb, 27 2012 @ 10:04 PM
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Originally posted by GBP/JPY
sirius is getting closer to jupiter.....will they get really close for december?.....sirius is west of Orion.....


Actually, Jupiter is getting closer to Sirius


As for December, it will be closer, but I wouldn't say "really close", I would say it will be "really close" to Venus in a few weeks.

And yeah, Sirius would be west of Orion, if west was east and east was west



posted on Feb, 28 2012 @ 01:13 PM
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Just wanted to add these images, some good examples of where the planets can be seen in the sky.

Source: EarthSky.org








posted on Feb, 28 2012 @ 01:17 PM
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reply to post by Lighterside
 


aw....dangit....I must be gettin old.....for two years I've been watchin that bright star west of Orion thinkin it twas Sirius....it's been pretty much stationary against the background starfield.....but it's Jupiter.
So jupiter is very slow, huh! Sirius lags behind Orion then....ok..

The night sky maps we see online should always show the horizon and azimuth.....for us 60 year amatuers

hey, we were in unison there on the post time
edit on 28-2-2012 by GBP/JPY because: Yahushua is our new King !!



posted on Feb, 28 2012 @ 02:39 PM
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Last night I could see two very bright planets pretty much perfectly aligned with the moon. They were below it and trailed off to the right. I'm going to assume it was venus and mars? I don't know much about astronomy but considering their locations I was thinking venus and mercury, but according to this thread mercury is hard to see.

Either way it was a beautiful sight, one of the best astronomical events i've ever witnessed. This happened early in the evening around 7PM By the time I got home at 11 the moon had moved down close to the horizon and the planets were no longer visible.

I'm hoping to see them again tonight



posted on Feb, 28 2012 @ 03:59 PM
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reply to post by OGOldGreg
 


The two planets you were viewing were Venus (the lower brighter one) and Jupiter. It's good to know the information I posted at least helped you rule out Mercury


Anyway, these 2 will be viewable for some time, however the moon will move away from the two. Keep lookin'




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