Friday, July 04, 2008

Forget the Fireworks This 4th July - Check Out the Planets!

NASA reports today (July 4th and tomorrow) an impressive planetary alignment visible with a telescope from the northern hemisphere.

The place to look, apparently, is halfway up the western skyline, just above the twilight glow of sunset, where Mars, Saturn and the bright star Regulus will converge to make a bright 1st magnitude line. I am reliably informed that this is a good thing to see. Map here.

The celestial wonders continue on Saturday when the Moon joins the line to make it even brighter. Map.

A small telescope should be able to pick out Saturn's rings, the distinct red hue of Mars and also craters and other formations on the surface of the Moon.

Although they cannot be seen by amateur telescopes, NASA also reports that the man-made craft circling these bodies at this time include the Cassini (around Saturn), Chinese and Japanese probes investigating the moon ahead of planned human landings and several craft around Mars , two from NASA and one from the European Space Agency.

Fascinating though all this is, I'm afraid as a city dweller my chances of finding some night sky free of light pollution this 4th July are remote.

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