30 July 2012

Watching the Solar System in Action

As we move into August, we can witness the gradual change in the night sky from one evening to the next as planets near and far align and move among the backdrop of stars in the heavens. In particular, Mars is moving quickly in its path around the Sun, and as it does so in early August, it will move just between a pair of bright objects, the star Spica and the planet Saturn. The diagram illustrates the position at the end of July, and the spacing between Mars and the pair will close as we move into August. This is a superb opportunity to witness the motions in our Solar System as we on Earth move around the Sun (making the trio of planets and stars appear lower in the sky each night), and Mars moves eastward with respect to Saturn.

Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope.

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