Posts Tagged 'Pseudoscience'

Conjunction Junction

Or, Why the World Doesn’t Come to an End When Planets Align

The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, as visualized by the Stellarium home planetarium software. (Click on the image to get a much larger and clearer version. For more about Stellarium, see the note at the bottom of this post.)

For many nights now, if you look west after sundown, you may have spotted two very bright objects in the sky fairly close to each other: the planets Venus and Jupiter, the brightest objects in the night sky other than the Moon. This event is known as a conjunction: just as conjunctions in grammar bring together two phrases in a sentence, astronomical conjunctions bring together two unconnected objects in the sky.

Note my use of the word “unconnected”: while obviously Venus and Jupiter both belong to our Solar System, orbiting the Sun just as Earth does, they aren’t very close to each other. Venus’ average distance to the Sun is 0.7 AU, while Jupiter’s orbit averages 5.2 AU in size. Since one astronomical unit (1 AU) is the distance from Earth to the Sun, Jupiter is over 5 times as far from the Sun as we are. Venus is never as close to Jupiter as it is to Earth, even when Venus and Earth are on the opposite sides of the Sun. To make a long story short, conjunctions are illusory, created by our perspective. Continue reading ‘Conjunction Junction’

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