Monday, December 1, 2008

A God's Eye View of the Solar System Tonight

There is a conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the moon tonight, just after sunset. If you consider that Jupiter, Venus and the Earth are all in the same plane focused on the sun, you can actually see the plane of the solar system. The moon is at a tilt and is outside the plane. (Draw a line from the crescent moon to the sun, just over the horizon, and you will see this.) If you imagine in your head the plane of the solar system and the moon lying outside that plane you will form a three dimensional image of the solar system. This is a unique opportunity to the planets not just as dots on a flat sky, but actually to "see" the solar system from a god's eye view, and a good time to dust off your digital camera.

1 comment:

Ted Keer said...

Compared to the Venus-Mars-Moon conjunction of 2002 this is a relative dud. The position of Jupiter makes it hard to judge the plane of the solar system. Jupiter is relatively faint. And the moon is apparently not riding high in its plane, so there is little contrast between it and the planets. Wortyh taking a look, but not nearly as breathtaking as the 2002 event.