This is the Classical Astronomy Update, an email newsletter especially
for Christian homeschool
families (though everyone is welcome!)
Please feel free to share this with any interested friends.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days
come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no
pleasure in them; While the sun, or the light, or the moon,
or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds
return after the rain: - Ecclesiastes 12:1-2
IN THIS UPDATE
Venus and Mars This Weekend
In the busy summertime, I don't always get around to everything I want to do. And that includes the webinar series! I do still intend to host one this month, as soon as I can find an opening in the schedule. So please be patient! If you already signed up, I'll contact you directly when we have a time slot. In the meantime, I'll be busy with my day job, household chores and errands, and trying to
find time to write the S&S sequel.
For more information about topics from Classical Astronomy
discussed in this newsletter, please check out
a homeschool astronomy curriculum
(but popular with adult readers too!)
Visit our archive of previous editions of the Classical Astronomy Update newsletters, going back to 2007.
Venus and Mars This Weekend
As reported in previous newsletters, the planets Venus and Mars have been moving toward an alignment all throughout the spring. Mars has enjoyed an excellent apparation since last year and is currently sinking lower toward the sunset, into which it will disappear by October.
Meanwhile, Venus has recently begun a new evening apparition and is steadily moving higher above the sunset with each passing day. This weekend, these two planets will "meet in the middle" and pass each other in a conjunction of planets.
Be sure to look to the western sky after sunset on the evening of Sunday, July 11, 2021. Venus and Mars will be closely aligned and the waxing crescent Moon will be in a lunar conjunction with these planets.
If you can find the Moon on Sunday evening, you'll also be able to find Venus, which sparkles brightly as the Evening Star. Mars will be a much greater challenge. Mars is almost on the opposite side of the solar system from the Earth, and the Red Planet shines feebly at magnitude +1.8, only about 1/50th of its brightest. Plus, Mars appears even fainter in strong dusk twilight. So you'll
need to keep a close eye on Venus as night falls and Mars will (hopefully) appear as a dim spark close to blazing Venus. Also try to orient these planets with the constellation Leo, also sinking toward the sunset, with its brightest star Regulus pointed at the horizon.
Mars is not actually "sinking" toward the sunset. This is just how it appears. Actually, the Earth moves faster in its orbit, and "outraces" Mars. So the line of sight from the Earth to the Sun is constantly changing, which will eventually cause Mars to move toward lining up behind the Sun, as seen from the Earth. But from the perspective of the Earth, it appears that the Sun is moving to overtake
the position of Mars.
(The motions of the planets and the apparent motion of the Sun is explained in greater detail in our Signs & Seasons astronomy curriculum.)
Though the lunar conjunction with these bodies is Sunday, the planetary conjunction (or closest alignment) between Mars and Venus is the next day, Monday, July 12, 2021. At closest alignment, these planets will be 1/2 degree apart, or one lunar diameter. This is quite close in celestial terms, though they will appear to have a decent separation in the sky. So keep your eyes peeled to spot faint Mars as
night falls and it sinks lower toward the horizon.
In other planetary news, Jupiter and Saturn are now visible before midnight and will be seen in the evening sky later in the summer. The Moon will pass by these planets in late July, in the days before, during and after the Full Moon.
These planets have been visible in the morning sky before sunrise for most of 2021. However, I am NOT an earlybird and am not usually awake to see them in morning darkness, so this newsletter mostly reports the sights visible in the evening sky, when I (and most other people) are up and around.
If you were fortunate to witness the historically close alignment of Jupiter and Saturn last December, notice how far Jupiter has moved since then, and how these planets are now so very far apart. These planets aligned to the west of the constellation Capricornus. In the 7 months since, Saturn has now moved east into Capricornus, while Jupiter has shifted almost into Aquarius. These planets will align
again the year 2040.
Til next time, God bless and clear skies,
The Ryan Family
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and
the stars, which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art
mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
- Psalm 8:3-4, a Psalm of David