Planets Align – Doomsday Or Astronomy Delight?
Planets Align – Doomsday Or Astronomy
First published on
Compiled by Selwyn Manning.
Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus,
Mercury, Uranus, Neptune are all lining up from east to west
in a celestial curve in our daytime sky – unfortunately for
New Zealanders they all except for Jupiter sneak over the
western horizon as night falls.
The celestial array is
better seen from the USA’s western Pacific coast – the
lineup won't be seen again until 2040. Doomsayers claim this
is it! We’re finished! Astronomers say nah that’s crap, this
is simply a unique and delightful array of planets.
If you want to track the planets, check out this
amazing site. Go to…
http://www.cosmiverse.com/sky/skyviewcafe/cafe.html and key
in your latitude and longitude co-ordinates. For example for
Auckland City, New Zealand = latitude 36°: 52’ and longitude
174°: 45’. Or for Oregon USA = latitude 45° 32' North and
longitude 122° 40' West.
The doomsayers predict that
the combined gravity of the planets and moon will pull Earth
out of its orbit or change the tilt of its rotational axis.
Others argue that the alignment will generate earthquakes,
tsunamis, or volcanic activity. Still others predict the
planets will raise giant flares on the sun. But Astronomy
Magazine says don't worry, none of these predictions will
The force of gravity diminishes with the
mass of the object and the square of the distance. Even the
most massive planet, Jupiter, is only one-thousandth the
mass of the sun. And given the great distances in the solar
system, the gravity of the planets has negligible effects on
Earth. In fact, the combined gravity of the five planets
today will exert a force just 0.00003 times that of the sun.
The effect of the tidal forces exerted by the planets
(their ability to pull more strongly on one side of Earth
that the other) is even more minuscule. "A Boeing 747 flying
at 30,000 feet produces a greater tidal effect on Earth's
surface than do all the planets," says Astronomy magazine
associate editor Richard Talcott.
Each evening, the
alignment will assume different shapes, as the five planets
take their orbital paths around the sun. The planets orbit
in the same plane, like grooves in a phonograph record, only
at different distances from the sun.
bunchings occur every 20 years or so, though they are not
always visible. The last they were this visible was in 1940.
In May 2000, the five planets formed a
tighter bunch but were so close to the sun that they were
washed out by its glare.
In 2004, they will appear
together again in the night sky, but will be spread over a
much wider area, said J. Kelly Beatty, executive editor of
Sky & Telescope magazine. They will be as easy to spy at a
single glance again until 2040.
published on Spectator.co.nz…
Compiled by Selwyn Manning.
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