A moon, and four planets

If you’re into finding planets, a trio of naked-eye visible planets will bracket the waxing crescent moon tonight  ( December 29, 2008 ).   If you have clear skies tonight it’s definitely worth a trip outside just as the sun sets.

Moon and Four Planets

Moon and Four Planets

I’ve set up Stellarium for about a half-hour after Sunset (click the image for a larger version).   The moon is shown just below center of the picture, with Jupiter and Mercury below and to the right, and Venus and Neptune above and to the left.

Venus will be the easiest to spot, as it is almost Mag -5.   Jupiter ( Mag -1.88)  and Mercury (Mag 0.66)  will be harder to see, both because they are fainter and because they are immersed in the sunset glow.   However, if you have a good view of the western horizon you should have a good chance of seeing both.  Binoculars will enhance the view considerably.

Neptune is next to Venus, but you have no chance of seeing the Mag 7.95 planet of the Sea God unless you are using a scope, and even with a scope it’s going to be tough to spot against the sunset.

Also shown is the asteroid Juno, but buried in the sunset you have almost zero chance of seeing this tiny ( 300km ) object, even with a telescope.

10 thoughts on “A moon, and four planets

  1. Pingback: Bright star in the south « AstroGeek

  2. I captured Neptune with Venus last night, using a standard digital camera at 70mm with a 6 sec exposure – no scope. Really looking forward to the naked-eye trio, especially with that crescent moon in the mix! A great way to end the year. http://www.twitpic.com/xgnv/full

  3. I considered removing John’s comment above, because it has nothing to do with astronomy. However I decided to leave it to demonstrate how people can take something as predictable as a conjunction and turn it toward their own ends.

    John; There is no new ‘huge unchartered (sic) / mysterious star’. It’s four planets and the moon. And whatever you want to believe about some mystic, as an astronomer I have to say that there is *no* connection whatsoever.

  4. Uh oh. There’s a hyberbolic comet (C/2007 N3 Lulin) just emerging from the solar glare this past week. It is a very nice comet, visible through binoculars just before sunrise; but it is expected to brighten to naked-eye visibility by mid-February. Even more fun, the comet will pass within just two degrees of Saturn. The “mystics” and “doomsayers” will have a field day with this one.

  5. @Tavi;

    No doubt they will be coming out of the woodwork. However, this comet doesn’t match John’s prediction of a new uncharted/mysterious star, visible day and night.

  6. Pingback: Observation Log: 20081229 17:30 « AstroGeek

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  8. Pingback: That bright star next to the moon… « AstroGeek

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