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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nearest and Farthest Planets at Conjunction

Venus, the nearest plant to earth, and Neptune, the farthest, are at conjunction with one another in the evening sky. Venus is this season's evening star, bright in the west after sunset. Only two degrees away (4 full-moon diameters) is Neptune, now below and to the right of Venus. They are growing farther apart each day as Venus continues its rapid climb into the evening sky. But for now they should both be easily visible in the same binocular field.

English: Venus orbits the Sun at an average di...Image via Wikipedia
Venus's and earth's orbit around the sun.

Venus is at magnitude -4, blazing brightly, while Neptune is at magnitude +8, some 1/63,000 as bright as Venus. (The magnitude scale is logarithmic, which each successive magnitude 2.5x brighter or dimmer than the preceding.) Venus is now 181.6 million kilometers, or 10.10 light minutes, from earth. Neptune is 4.6 billion kilometers, or 256.14 light minutes, from earth. Since Pluto's demotion from planetude in 2006, Neptune is now our most distant planet. Enjoy seeing the closest and farthest, brightest and dimest together in the same binocular field of view for the next few days!

English: The average distance between Neptune ...Image via Wikipedia
Neptune's orbit around the sun

And remember...Keep on looking up!

--by Ira Machefsky
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