5 Planets Aligned

Well, tomorrow morning, there were supposed to be 5 bright planets aligned in the east.

I will have to wait a few more days, since it is totally cloudy here at the moment, and for the foreseeable future.  (I suppose there is a future that can be foreseen, and it is cloudy.)

In any case, it is supposed to go on for some time, but pretty unlikely I will see Mercury, and I have seen the rest.  I also have a really hard time getting up early in the morning.   Maybe the better idea is just to stay up all night.  If we get a clear night in the next few days that is what I will do.  The New York Times says this:

It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.

But a few lines later they say this:

“For Mercury you will need binoculars,” he said. “It will not jump out at you, but everybody should be able to see Venus and Jupiter.”

So, maybe someone in New York will be able to see all five simultaneously with the naked eye.  Everyone will see Venus and Jupiter.  I suspect that everyone will also see Mars.  Maybe a good telescope will see Pluto (not a planet) and Neptune as well.

And while we are at it, why not a quick pet peeve about news coverage in general these days (I mean NPR in particular).  The NYTimes says this:

The display is made possible by the uncommon alignment of all five planets along what is called the “ecliptic” plane of their orbits according to Jim Green, the planetary science division director at NASA.

Well, there just is an ecliptic (not sure why we have to worry about what it is called, but okay).  The five planets occasionally catch up to each other.  You need not say “according to …” anybody.  Jim Green is not just telling a story here.  Not much of an explanation, but something is true here.  “According to” makes it sound like there is an alternative view.  Probably there is an alternative view.  I expect to hear about it on NPR tomorrow.

I am adding a link to the Fourmilab sky map, in case you want to track this yourself.

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