The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Look West, Young Man, Look West

Tonight after suset, there will be a lovely grouping in the early evening sky. No telescope will be required to see it. A little over a week ago, I posted pics I took from a trip to San Diego showing Mars, Spica and Saturn. This trio is still visible in the western sky after sunset. Tonight they will be joined by the crescent Moon. Here is a chart showing what it will look like from Tucson at about 8:00pm tonight.

In this image, the four objects make a rhombus.  The Moon moves fairly quickly, about its diameter every hour, so you may see a slightly different configuration depending on if you look earlier or later than the time I set here. To make a map for your location, try Stellarium, a free planetarium program available for both Mac and Windows (it’s what I used to make this chart).

You can also look at these bodies and think about the missions we currently have in operation around three of them: Saturn (Cassini), the Moon (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and GRAIL) and Mars (Curiosity, Opportunity, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Odyssey and Mars Express). Spica is about 260 light years away so it will be a while before we have a mission around it!

I will be trying to photograph this gathering of course, but the summer rains and clouds have been plentiful in Tucson recently so they odds are not in my favor. Of course I am always happy to see photos taken by others as well!




August 21, 2012 Posted by | Conjunctions, Observing, Solar System | Leave a comment