February 22, 2018

AstroEvent: A Mutual Western Elongation.

One of the more unique events of 2011 occurs this weekend. The interior planets of Mercury and Venus both reach greatest western elongation within 24 hours of each other in the dawn skies. First, Venus reaches an elongation of 47° from the Sun on Saturday, January 8th at about 16:00UT/11:00 EST. Then, about 23.6 hours later, Mercury reaches the height of its morning apparition 23° west of the Sun.

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Astro event: A Close Planetary Conjunction.

The dusk planetary action continues this week with a close conjunction of the planets Mars and Venus. Our two nearest planetary neighbors in space have been playing a game of apparent cat and mouse in the dusk skies, approaching each other within two degrees of arc July 31st, receding, and then approaching again. Closest approach is around August 19th, when both planets are within 1° 45’ of each other as seen from our Earthly vantage point. This is one of the better planetary conjunctions of the year, and a good study in comparative planetary characteristics and orbital mechanics.

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Review: The Transits of Venus by William Sheehan & John Westfall.

In less than a year’s time, an event will happen that none of us will live to see again; a transit across the face of the Sun by the planet Venus. In this regard, this week’s review of the book The Transits of Venus by William Sheehan and John Westfall looks at the history of this rare phenomenon. Published in 2004 by Prometheus Books, this work serves as essential reading covering the history, understanding, and what to expect when viewing a transit of Venus. These rare spectacles occur in eight year pairs spaced over longer 121.5 to 105.5 year intervals;

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