Wednesday, July 03, 2002

An orrery, and what it all means

Okay, so I found an orrery with more detail, which has caused me to revise earlier statements. Venus does not yet have Mercury at superior conjunction, and we (Earth) have Mercury pretty much at greatest elongation. Mars appears to have Venus at greatest elongation as well. We just missed (a month ago, perhaps?) Jupiter having Mars at inferior conjunction (which won't happen again for a couple of years, give or take).

So what does any of this mean to you and me (or more accurately, to you)? Well, when we have Venus or Mercury at greatest elongation, it means they're easier to spot in the sky at either sunrise or sunset, depending on what side of the sun they're on. At the moment, Mercury is in the morning sky; Venus is in the evening sky. So at dusk, you can go outside, and the brightest "star" you'll see in the west is going to be Venus. If you go out every evening at the same time, over time Venus will slowly head back toward the horizon, until it disappears in the glow of the sunset. Shortly thereafter, it'll start appearing in the morning sky, getting higher and higher until it again reaches greatest elongation. Then it heads back toward the sun, and repeats this time and again.

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