JUPITER AND VENUS ALIGN
December 5, 2008
From the UNA Planetarium and Observatory...
FLORENCE, Ala. — The University of North Alabama is informing the public of the current close alignment of Jupiter and Venus in the early evening sky, Dec. 2-10. Venus is slowly passing Jupiter in the sky immediately after sunset, making a sparkling pair of bright objects for evening commuters and dog walkers. The pair may easily be seen in the west-southwest low in the sky. The two planets will appear out of the twilight glow about half an hour after sunset.
Jupiter, the largest of the planets, lies farther away from Earth than Venus, but the two are close to the same direction in the solar system as viewed from Earth. Venus’ orbital period is much shorter than Jupiter’s, and it is whipping past Jupiter from our point of view. It actually follows a path called an ellipse (not quite a circle), and so will get to a point where its orbit will start carrying it back toward the sun in the sky. Try to think of the three-dimensional picture of what is going on. You are watching the motion of worlds like the Earth. If you are careful, you can actually trace the arc that Venus’ orbit makes in the sky.
For more information, contact Dr. Mel Blake, director of the UNA Planetarium and Observatory, at 256-765-4284 or email@example.com.