Monday, 17 September 2018 14:44

The Solar System is putting on a show

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The Solar System is putting on a show Screen grab from Stellarium (http://stelarium.org)

The four brightest planets can all be easily seen during the next few weeks.

Once the sun goes down, take a look to the west to see a quite spectacular sight.

Lower in the sky you will see Venus as a bright white light. It is the third brightest object visible at any time (after only the sun and the moon).

A little above Venus you’ll see the 4th brightest object in the sky – Jupiter. The image below (a screen-grab from Stellarium) shows the scene very well.

Stellarium is a freely downloadable package that will show all objects in the sky in read-time. There are versions of this open-source planetarium for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

Look further up (almost over-head) and you’ll find Saturn, and tonight the moon will be nearby.

Higher still is Mars, which was at its closest point to Earth a few weeks ago, and is still exceptionally bright.

The planets will stay in this approximate configuration for the next few days/weeks so keep an eye open to see how they move against the background stars.

Oh, and the easiest way to identify an object as a planet, rather than a star – planets don’t twinkle. Readers are welcome to speculate as to why this is in the comments section below. The other fun-fact – Venus can never be more than 47 degrees away from the sun. Why is that?

The only visible planet not currently on display in the evening is Mercury – currently it is setting before the sun and rising beside it (due to the oddities of spherical geometry).

Planets 2018 09 17

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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