23 August 2010

Perspective of the Solar System

After weeks of foggy skies in San Francisco, the sky has started clearing, yielding spectacular sunsets and sky shows at Ocean Beach. I have been writing about (but not seeing much of) the amazing sight of the planets dancing across the evening sky. With the clear skies, the view was great, showcasing Venus and Mars very close together, with Saturn just to the lower right and the bright Zodiac start Spica (in Virgo) just to the upper left.

This configuration traces a curve in the sky and if you have a clear southern horizon you can "connect the dots" from this cluster of stars and planets to the south where bright Jupiter dominates the sky. Beyond that, the Moon is slicing across the lower southern sky, providing the observer with a nice visual of the Ecliptic, the line of the planets, Moon and Sun. This is a great way to visualize the path of the planets in the Solar System when you look out from our Earth-bound perspective.

Over the coming months, Mars and Saturn and eventually Venus fade, but the giant planet Jupiter will be dominating the Fall skies.

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