Planetary conjunction reflection and pictures

Posted by Daniel Pendick
on Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Venus, Mercury, crescent Moon

Astronomy magazine’s offices are located in an office park off I-94 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I’m one of the lucky people here blessed with a corner window that provides a pretty wide view of the sky.

In summer, I watch wicked thunderstorm systems scudding due east on their way to die over Lake Michigan. During early evenings — when you can sometimes find some of us in our offices dotting i’s and crossing t’s on the latest astronomical discoveries — pastel sunsets drape the sky.

But today I see snow, fine little flakes of it blowing by like confetti. Yes, it’s snow season in the Midwest. The snow started last night — just in time to slam the curtain closed (for us anyways) on the spectacular conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and the elegant crescent Moon. Did you see it?

Color me green with envy. Saturday night, I was making dinner plans with a friend. She suggested Café Hollander on Milwaukee’s East Side, just blocks from the high bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. Great! I tell her we can shoot over to the lakeshore first to see the conjunction.

Crescent Moon, Venus, and JupiterWithin an hour, it seemed, the sky transitioned from “perfectly clear” to “chilly and overcast,” which is the Midwestern season that precedes “snow.” Driving toward the lake on the way home, I saw . . . nada. Gray.

There’s always hope. Next week, “snow” may transform into “REALLY cold and overcast.” But sometimes “really cold but clear” sneaks in for a few tantalizing days. Last year, I used such a night to show a couple of kids Saturn’s rings for the first time in their lives. It hung there in the still, cold, clear air, like a toy planet hung from a string.

If you saw the conjunction — or if you see it tonight — let us know. Send photos, like those from Astronomy Contributing Editor Phil Harrington we're displaying to the right. And don’t mind that green guy in the corner.

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