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Magnificent Planetary Conjunction over Armagh

Whoever looked up at the sky at dusk on Monday, 1st December was fortunate enough to see one of the most beautiful night-sky views of the year – a massing of planetary bodies in the south-west.

The gas giant planet, Jupiter, was nearly in conjunction with bright, ‘evening star’, Venus, and the Moon. The Moon occulted, that is, passed in front of, Venus from about 3:36 p.m. to 5:07 p.m. The respective distances of the bodies from Earth were then about a quarter of a million miles (Moon), 93 million miles (Venus), and 540 million miles (Jupiter).

Astronomers at the Armagh Observatory successfully recorded the event using the historic 10-inch Grubb refractor and a CCD video camera. The images show, respectively, the telescope and Venus emerging from behind the Moon, after the end of the occultation, while Jupiter is above and to the right. The dark part of the Moon is faintly visible because of Earthshine, that is, sunlight reflected off the Earth, then off the Moon and back to Earth.

telescope
Click on image for full size
Apostolos Christou recording the event using
the 10-inch Grubb telescope at Armagh Observatory
occultation photoClick on image for full size
Venus just emerging from behind the Moon after the occultation,
with Jupiter above and to the right
(Images courtesy of Miruna Popescu)

Click here for more photos

Video recordings by Tolis Christou


Ingress of Venus behind the Moon
Larger mp4 version

Egress of Venus from behind the Moon
Larger mp4 version

Planetary Alignment Diagram

Towards the end of November 2008, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, moved closer together in the sky, until on December 1st, they were just 2 degrees apart. This alignment is illustrated in the diagram below which shows (in increasing order of distance from the Sun) the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter. The orbit of the Moon is too small to be seen on this scale, but the 2008 December 1st alignment was especially interesting because additionally Venus was occulted by the Moon (this occultation was visible from Europe and NW Africa).
conjunction diagram
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfat signarm.ac.uk.

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Last Revised: 2008 December 2nd
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