Thinking Outside the Classroom: A Triple Conjunction — Venus, Mars, the moon and you
Thinking Outside the Classroom
Dance the triple conjunction conga!
That’s correct, get in line and hold onto Venus, Mars and the slimmest 2-day-old crescent moon, and dance away the evening. Talk about triple: We’re in for a treat, as Venus and Mars will perform this conjunction conga two more times within the next eight months. There’s going to be a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on!
What’s a conjunction?
It is the moment of minimum separation between two objects as viewed from the Earth. Or when two — in this case three — astronomical bodies (the sun, the moon, a planet or a star) are very close together because they share the same right ascension or ecliptic longitude from the observer’s line of sight on Earth. That’s up and down (ecliptic longitude) or left to right (right ascension).
So the big deal Monday, July 12, and Tuesday, July 13, is that Venus, Mars and the moon will conga line and share the same right ascension with the greatest separation between the three at 3.46 degrees. Venus and Mars are separated by only 0.29 degrees! That’s close. Talk about dancing cheek to cheek.
Anyone can view this event around the globe without any special equipment as the moon, Mars and Venus are all easily visible with the unaided, naked eye. For us in Summit County, find an unobstructed view of the western horizon or head to a higher spot out of the valley — Sapphire Point, for example.
Appearing first, the thin, 2-day-old moon will stake its claim in the darkening western sky as a slender crescent about 20 degrees above the horizon. Some say this waxing crescent reminds them of an eye wink. Minutes later, Venus appears. And remember, it’s not a star! Venus will seem like a red spotlight, slowly getting brighter as dusk deepens.
Around 8:50 p.m., Mars will become visible just about 0.29 degrees to the right and below Venus. Mars will be a dimmer shade of red compared with the overpowering reflection of Venus. The trio will then slowly conga line toward the western horizon, setting close to 9:30 p.m. Anticipate about 35 minutes to view the triple conjunction.
Now come on, you can’t miss this one. Make it a family and friends affair. Grab a chair, get outside and wait for the music to start. Then get up and dance the triple conjunction conga. A conga line is always better the more dancers there are swaying in the moonlight.
“Thinking Outside the Classroom” publishes periodically in the Summit Daily News. Mark Laurin, known as “Astro Mark,” is an adjunct instructor at Keystone Science School. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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