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Saturday, 25 February 2012

Conjunction (Appulse)


venus and jupiter 2

King and Queen of the Night Sky: Jupiter (upper right) and Venus (left): photo by Journey to the Stars, 6:50 PM, 10 February 2012

"As I walked out one evening..."

-- Auden

Moon-Jupiter-Venus Celestial Lineup, viewed from Charlotte, North Carolina
: photo by Mike O'Hara, 23 February 2012

Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, aligned above the Moon, viewed from San Bernardino, California: photo by Lyle Evans, 24 February 2012 (via EarthSky)

Sky map for Saturday 25 February, 2012: image by NASA

In the night sky over European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope observatory at Paranal, the Moon shines along with two bright companions: already aloft in the heavens and glowing in the centre of the image is Venus, Earth’s closest planetary neighbour, and, to its right, the giant, though more distant planet, Jupiter. Such apparent celestial near misses -- although the heavenly bodies are actually tens to hundreds of millions of kilometres apart -- are called conjunctions. Still other sights delight this night view at Paranal: the radiant, reddish plane of the Milky Way, smouldering on the horizon, and an 8.2-metre VLT Unit Telescope, along with a 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescope, standing firmly on the ground
: image by ESO / Y. Beletsky, 3 December 2009




Auden's line so disarmingly simple (in conjunction with the beauty of such stunning Night Sky sights) -- Johnny and I caught a glimpse that Moon coming out of Ironworks (the climbing gym) at the foot of Ashby about 6:15 last night, the planets not yet 'out' -- will look for them tonight. . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, black shape of black pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

previously distorted, while
normal shape of still

other facts, light all over,
thought like that and

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
sunlit green shoulder of ridge above it

TC said...


I saw the full show just an hour and 20 minutes later, from four miles to the north of where you and Johnny were, looking west toward the bay, the faint crescent moon just rising, and above it, in a perfect line, Venus and Jupiter, very large and bright.

Fearing that this would not be believed if I merely reported it on next opportunity, I went in search of evidence of this extremely rare astronomical event...

Hazen said...

. . . "the milky way smoldering on the horizon." That got my attention! Thanks for bringing all this together, Tom. Beautiful. I'll be looking west at twilight tonight.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Lucky, lucky stars.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Eleni and I saw this grouping--Venus almost horizontal with the Moon on its right, Jupiter above Venus in the western sky over the Ithomi mountains early last night on our way to a carnival celebration in one of the villages overlooking the upper Messenian valley. Thanks for pointing this out.

ACravan said...

It's wonderful to wake up to this. I wasn't sure what I was seeing, but I'm happy to know. Last night in Tuxedo where the sky is so black at night, the moon and Venus were amazingly arranged. Earlier, snow had been blowing at us up the driveway (which seemed like a wind tunnel), the wind roared and the trees creaked making dangerous sounds. It's still black but I'm excited about showing this post to the sleeping people in my house. Curtis

TC said...

How cheering to have some company in stargazing.

Positional astronomy is all very well when practised in the dark planetarium of the old person's bedimmed private chamber, but when the shapes on the ceiling begin coming up in odd patterns...

But no wonder. This is the oldest branch of astronomy and dates back to antiquity. How fitting.

Last night the moon was well up and out of the alignment by the time I negotiated the dark steps for a look. But Venus and Jupiter were still up there and doing quite well, thank you very much.

It seemed good fortune to be able to be seeing any of this at all, given a large and deep Arctic trough e'en now bears down upon us from the Gulf of Alaska, threatening to occlude everything and drop the temp 30 degrees in a matter of hours.

In the ongoing who-shall-survive-longest sweepstakes which is what remains here of the infinite game there is currently some concern for one of our cast of agéd and infirm, a dear little girl cat who has suffered through plenty of foul weather in her time but is doing poorly now and one fears for her.

For which reason Susan's interpretation of the astronomical conjunction as lucky was gratefully received.

Smoulder on, then, crazy Milky Way, above Tuxedo and above Roanoke, above the villages of the upper Messenian Valley and the chalkdust-smudged, haole-haunted, weekend-darkened classrooms of the Sandwich Islands!



We thank our lucky stars that you did ("go in search of evidence of this extremely rare astronomical event"). I saw it again last night, also from the East Bay -- driving home along the freeway after my brother's performance of "PIANO GIANTS / from Bach to Gershwin," featuring some of the Preludes and Fugues (after John Lewis' playing of them), Monk's "'Round Midnight," Wynton Kelly's solo on "Freddie Freeloader" (from Kind of Blue), Monk's "Pannonica," something from Moussorgsky's "Pictures," Mary Lou Williams' "Roll 'Em," and Willie 'The Lion' Smith's "Relaxin'" -- and then that moon smiling as it went down in the low western sky, Jupiter way above it now (or was it Venus?). . .

TC said...

Steve, as this positional astronomy appears to be largely a matter of perspective, here's another angle of view, from our friend Artur -- a brilliant look, in the deep blue Northern night, at a crowning Norwegian Appulse.

ACravan said...

Observing this has been so, so great. Last night, cold and clear in Berwyn, we stood outside for awhile simply amazed. The rest of the night sky wasn't bad either. Curtis

Tom King said...

I noticed this in Connecticut last night, except that Jupiter was above, Venus below, and the moon to the right, so it was more a triangle. Really beautiful.

TC said...

The show changes every night, now we too are seeing that triangular conjunction Tom describes.