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The Shallow Sky

Planets Close to Each Other and Sun

Akkana Peck

Alas, we're into lean times for evening planetary observers. The bulk of the easily visible planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Mercury) lie in a narrow band of the ecliptic, too near the sun to make for good observing, and passing from the evening into the morning sky during the course of the month.

Even in the morning sky, conditions are no better, with Venus also very close to the sun, though early risers on May 17th might be able to see the end of a close conjunction with Jupiter (hours earlier, the two were barely farther apart than the size of Jupiter's disk!) It might also be possible to see them after the sun is up, if you're careful to hide behind a building (both to reduce glare and to reduce the chance that you'll accidentally sweep your binoculars across the sun).

If you miss this one, try for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, just before sunrise during the last five days of May. They're so close to the sun that they'll be hard to see in the dawn glow: try using binoculars to locate them.

The only shallow-sky showpieces remaining to late-evening observers are the outer planets: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Tiny magnitude 13.7 Pluto is nearing opposition in Scorpius. From a dark sky (like those at Fremont Peak or Henry Coe), use a good finder chart (the one in the RASC Observer's Handbook is usually reliable) and the biggest aperture you have to locate the starlike glint of our farthest neighbor.

Uranus and Neptune remain close together in the sky, in Capricornus, and should be fairly easy to locate before morning twilight begins.

Mail to: Akkana Peck
Copyright © 2000 San Jose Astronomical Association
Last updated: July 19, 2007

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