Thursday, January 21, 2016

Astronomy, 5 Planets Visible, and Ultrarunning

It's been awhile since I posted anything about astronomy, but that field is one of my favorite almost-hobbies.

I say "almost" because I don't have any telescopes or anything, I'm just a knowledgeable casual naked-eye observer.  I pride myself at being able to identify at a basic level planets, stars, and constellations.

Anyway...turns out that the next couple weeks, if you haul your butt out of bed just before dawn, you're in for a treat.  I'll let the always-good Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy tell us more (also, the image above is part of his post):

If you get up very early over the next couple of weeks, there’s a treat waiting for you outside: All five naked-eye planets known since antiquity are visible in the dawn sky at once.

This is actually pretty cool, and it’s visible from anywhere in the world. Very generally, if you go outside well before dawn (5:30–6 a.m. local time) and look south (in the Northern Hemisphere; face north if you’re in the upside-down part of the world), you’ll see the planets lined up across the sky.

Mind you, that’s “very generally.” Here are some specifics:
In order from their apparent positions from the Sun in the sky, the planets are Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter.* They scoot around a bit over the next few weeks, changing their positions and distances from each other, but stay in that order. Venus is the brightest by far, with Jupiter next. Saturn and Mars are about the same brightness as each other (compare them with the red supergiant star Antares which shines near Saturn), but Saturn will appear yellowish, while Mars will be rust-colored (because it’s rusty).

Click on over here and read the rest, then add Bad Astronomy to your regular reading regime.  You really must!

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning.  In the spirit of adventure running, about which I just wrote, I plan to scope out the overnight weather conditions over the next couple of weeks--looking for a clear forecast--and get up early for a pre-dawn run.  It's been awhile since I've done that, and it should prove to be magical.

Practically any activity is magical anytime you're doing something cool that is nowhere close to being on the radar of the rest of the world.

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