Planetary Alignment of 2002 (Astronomy at the Beach)

During the months of April, May and June in 2002, five planets were visible in the same section of the sky. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were within 33 degrees at their closest. This alignment was unusual, it will be almost 20 years before the next time these planets will be this close together.

This alignment was easy to observe from the Northern Hemisphere; you only had to go outside any clear night in the early evening during April, May or June and look toward the west. Three bright objects were easily seen with the naked eye (they are Saturn, Jupiter and Venus). Mars was dimmer, but also visible; under the right conditions Mercury was visible as well.

Mercury

Mercury

Mercury is tricky to observe, but if you plan ahead and observe from a location with a good horizon without obstructions (such as trees, buildings and so on), you should be able to see it. The easiest time to observe Mercury is at the greatest elongation (which occurs every few months), however it can be observed for a few weeks before and after greatest elongation.

It is very difficult to see any detail on Mercury in earth bound telescopes.

Venus

Venus

Venus is the brightest planet and easy to observe with the naked eye. However it shows little detail when observed through a telescope.

Mars

Mars (Valles Marineris).

Mars varies in brightness more than other planets. It can vary from bright red to pale pink over its two year cycle. Observation from earth based telescopes is worthwhile only near opposition (which occurs once every two years).

More information about Mars.

Jupiter

Jupiter

Jupiter is easy to observe with the naked eye. If you use binoculars you may be able to see some of the four brightest moons (which may be visible as small dots near the bright disk of Jupiter). With a small telescope, you can see bands in the atmosphere and up to four moons (sometimes one or more of the moons are behind the planet and not visible).

Saturn

Saturn

Saturn is easy to observe with the naked eye. If you use a small telescope, you will able to see the rings (except every few years when the rings are “edge-on,” and thus not visible from our vantage point). Normally you can see the brightest moon, Titan, and possibly other moons.

More on the Planets

Photo Credits

  • Mercury—the U. S. Geological Survey (Flagstaff Field Center).
  • Venus—an Ultraviolet image as seen by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter; It was taken February 5, 1979.
  • Mars—the Valles Marineris canyon system. Three volcanoes are visible on the left. This photograph is copyright 1997-1999 by Calvin J. Hamilton, all rights reserved.
  • Jupiter—Voyager 1.
  • Saturn—High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research
    Center.
  • 2018 Events

    September 14th and 15th, 2018
    Astronomy at the Beach, 6PM-12AM
    Kent Lake beach in the Island Lake State Recreation Area.

  • Latest

    I’d ask if anyone saw the eclipse this morning, but this is SE Michigan ☁️☁️☁️

    So, does anyone have a favorite eclipse picture they’d like to share?
    ... See MoreSee Less

     

    Comment on Facebook

    Mine from September 2015 one ... sorry too cloudy this morning

    Brian Ottum of the Lowbrows used his remote New Mexico system to capture the eclipse. www.facebook.com/UniversityLowbrowAstronomers/

    View from towards the ecliptical North Pole. Earth, Moon, and distance between drawn to scale. Arc segment through Moon shows size of Earth's umbra at this distance. If this arc meets the node where the moon crosses the ecliptic, there is an eclipse.

    1 month ago

    Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs

    So who is checking their back yard this morning?Update on the Michigan fireball - this image shows the trajectory of the meteor as determined by the eyewitness accounts posted on the American Meteor Society Website. Our analysis yields a similar result, and we have calculated that this was a very slow moving meteor - speed of about 28,000 miles per hour. This fact, combined with the brightness of the meteor (which suggests a fairly big space rock at least a yard across), shows that the object penetrated deep into the atmosphere before it broke apart (which produced the sounds heard by many observers). It is likely that there are meteorites on the ground near this region - one of our colleagues at JSC has found a Doppler weather radar signature characteristic of meteoritic material falling to earth.

    Pieces of an asteroid lying near Detroit? Let's see what the meteorite hunters find.
    ... See MoreSee Less

    So who is checking their back yard this morning?

     

    Comment on Facebook

    Pete was taking the trash containers to the curb and saw it in Wixom and heard the boom a couple minutes after coming inside.

    This is my guess of the meteor's strewn field.

    $1m for a pound of it they’re guessing!

    Jennifer Cruthirds send those boys out in the backyard!

    Rhonda

    Debi Keeling

    + View previous comments

    3 months ago

    Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs

    Astronomy at the Beach is a two-night annual event bringing together amateur and professional astronomers and science educators to share our love of space and astronomy with the public.

    On both Friday and Saturday nights, from 6 PM until midnight, we'll dazzle your eyes with views of the Moon, Saturn, and more, and expand your mind with presentations about many aspects of popular astronomy.

    Please note that this year we are at Kent Lake Beach in the Island Lake State Recreation area. (Up until last year, we met across the highway at Kensington Metropark.) For most metro Detroiters, it will be a shorter drive! Simply go south on Kensington Road from I-96, then make a left on Kent Lake Beach Road almost as soon as you enter the park. (Google Maps calls the site "Island Lake Picnic Grounds".)

    Learn more: www.glaac.org/astronomy-at-the-beach/

    Astronomy at the Beach 2018Sep 14, 6:00pmIsland Lake Recreation AreaAstronomy at the Beach is a two-night annual event bringing together amateur and professional astronomers and science educators to share our love of space and astronomy with the public.

    On both Friday and Saturday nights, from 6 PM until midnight, we'll dazzle your eyes with views of the Moon, Saturn, and more, and expand your mind with presentations about many aspects of popular astronomy.

    Please note that this year we are at Kent Lake Beach in the Island Lake State Recreation area. (Up until last year, we met across the highway at Kensington Metropark.) For most metro Detroiters, it will be a shorter drive! Simply go south on Kensington Road from I-96, then make a left on Kent Lake Beach Road almost as soon as you enter the park. (Google Maps calls the site "Island Lake Picnic Grounds".)

    Learn more: www.glaac.org/astronomy-at-the-beach/
    ... See MoreSee Less

    Astronomy at the Beach 2018