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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Big Frowny Face In the Sky, Dec 1

from National Geographic, "Planets, Crescent Moon to 'Frown' on Skywatchers Dec. 1," by Andrew Fazekas, Nov 25, 2008

"This is set to be the best planetary gathering of the year, simply because it involves three of the brightest objects in the sky after the sun," said Geza Gyuk, director of astronomy at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

On November 30, at about 7 pm Eastern Standard Time, Jupiter and Venus will be separated by only 2 degrees. The planets will be easily seen shortly after sunset, as long as the sky is clear. Look low in the southwest, approximately where sunset occurs.

However, the best of the show may be on the following evening, Dec 1. The crescent moon will join the two planets for a short time, creating the appearance of a "frowny face" in the sky.

Five planets are visible in the sky to the naked eye, but Jupiter and Venus are the brightest. They are both enveloped in reflective clouds. Jupiter is the largest planet, and Venus is the closest, making both of them easily visible.

Planetary conjunctions are relatively rare, and the last time that Venus and Jupiter were so close together was in 2 B.C. This has raised speculation as to whether the light from the conjunction appeared merged and is the "Star of Bethlehem."

See National Geographic Blog
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