Monday, February 4, 2008

Quite a Sight

I'm subscribed to the "space weather" email notification list. Whoever "they" are, they send out notices every once in a while letting people know about upcoming astronomical events. Typically, these show up and tell you about something that's going to happen at about 4 am in a few days. Clearly, this is absurdly early, so I usually take note then delete the email. Well, this happened last Thursday, with an email that reads:

MORNING SKY ALERT: Set your alarm for dawn. On Friday morning, February 1st, Venus and Jupiter converge in the southeastern sky less than 1 degree apart; they will beam through the rosy glow of dawn like a pair of celestial headlights. It's a spectacular view worth waking up early to see. The February 1st alignment kicks off four mornings of beautiful views as the crescent Moon moves in to join Venus and Jupiter over the weekend. Visit for sky maps and photos.

As is typical, I took a mental note, had no intention of being awake that early, and deleted the email.

Well, this morning, I woke up early to go to work and as I was backing out of my garage and on to the street, what should appear above my house? Two planets and a crescent moon in the eastern sky. It was absolutely beautiful. The horizon was just starting to alight with that deep blue that comes in early dawn, fading into blackness overhead. The two points of light were higher in the sky, piercing the blackness like pin holes. The brighter of the two was Venus, and I was surprised at how bright Jupiter appeared; it was no meager companion. Beneath these two was the crescent moon, just a few days from a new moon. It hung beneath them in the bluer sky, centered as if it were dangling by strings from the two planets, tips to the right and features bright.

It was quite a sight, and I wish I would've had a camera with me to record it. Nevertheless, this picture was taken from somebody in Turkey hours earlier. My sky was bluer and it appeared from my vantage point that the moon was more beneath them, but it's a fair likeness.

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