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Thursday November 15 2018

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Village Features

The rise of Jupiter

Posted on April 30 2018 at 2:44:39

Planets

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

Is it May already? The Sun doesn’t set till eight thirty and rises again at five thirty, so I suppose it must be! As the Sun disappears over the horizon, Venus shines out like aircraft landing lights low in the west.

Unmistakable, except that people do mistake it – for a UFO, especially when seeing it from a moving vehicle.

Look to see how bright it gets as the sky darkens, finally vanishing at about ten thirty. This is the time to observe this magical planet on a nightly basis and notice how it resists the background westward drift of the rest of the night sky.

On the 17th, a very slim crescent Moon is close by, always worth looking out for but especially this one as the Moon is just two days old.

As Venus disappears in the west, magically, over in the south east, another planet rises. This is the other bright planet in our local collection we call the Solar System: Jupiter.

This is the object that will dominate the dark skies for the whole of the summer months, taking over from Venus in the twilight hours.

This month, the Sun, Earth and Jupiter form a straight line. Actually this happens on the 9th but it’s practically true for most of the month.

This means that it is due south at solar midnight, which is actually one o’clock in the morning thanks to British Summer Time.

It is also when Earth is closest to Jupiter but the huge distance means it doesn’t make much difference.

Another side effect is that it will only ever be fairly low in the sky because the Earth is tilted towards the Sun, but Jupiter will start to rise earlier each day as Venus sets later.

This tilt also has another effect, this time on the Moon, which is incidentally, close by Jupiter on the 27th. When the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth to the Sun, it too will never rise very high in the sky.

When the full Moon is close to the horizon like this, it always looks bigger due to the “Moon Illusion” – in fact this size difference is more noticeable than at a so-called Supermoon.

Look out for it during the first few days of the month and again at the end, at Spring Bank Holiday (hooray!).

Now, you may remember that back in February, SpaceX launched the largest rocket the USA has had since the demise of the Space Shuttle. On board was a Tesla car with a dummy in the driving seat.

You may be wondering where it is now – I do (it’s the sort of thing I get up to when not given something to do).

Well, there is a website with all the details: http://www.whereisroadster.com. It has its present location and speed, but bear in mind it is in orbit around the Sun so velocities are all relative.

For example, at the time of writing it is travelling away from us at around nine thousand miles per hour.

Anyway, do have a look, it puts a bit of fun into space!


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