July 21, 2024

Brighton Journal

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There is still time to see Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus are a rare sight


They should all be visible this month.


The Predawn Hours is hosting a planet-observing party for skywatchers this week. Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Saturn will be visible in a diagonal line, connected by a waning crescent moon.

Look for this cosmic band in the sky between east and southeast before dawn. You can usually distinguish between planets and stars because they are brighter and shimmer less. Jupiter will be the lowest and farthest to the left, followed by Venus, Mars and Saturn drawing an invisible line moving up and to the right.

To help discover planets, an app like Stellarium can be very useful.

A fifth planet also appears in the night sky but not at the same time. Mercury can be seen in the evening but will be absent before others appear in the morning.

The group of quadruple realms will appear every morning for the rest of the month as the moon shrinks in the sky. By the end of April, we’ll see this smiling moon slip below the planetary lineup on successive nights. It will locate Saturn on April 25, Mars the following night, and both Jupiter and Venus on April 27.

Venus and Jupiter will continue to get close to each other until they appear roughly side by side in the sky on April 30. In fact, it is their closest appearance since 2016 and will probably be easier to see this time due to the more favorable positioning in relation to the emerging morning sun.

Of course, the planets are not in real danger of colliding, because they are in fact millions of miles away. It looks close from our perspective on the ground. If Venus were to come anywhere near Jupiter, it would likely be pulled by the gravity of the gas giant and end up swallowing it up. That is if it is not destroyed as it is pelted by dozens of Jupiter’s moons first.

This would provide a truly rare and terrifying display in the night sky if it did.

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