Tonight, for one show only ... it's Jupiter, Venus, and the moon!
Dateline: Pete's front stoop in Franklin, Mass.Skip to next paragraph
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The moon-Jupiter-Venus show is underway (show times vary by location). And it's spectacular! Relish it. We won't see its kind for another 44 years.
One way to stretch the pleasure: Use a pair of binoculars. It's your ticket to the matinée. From my front stoop, the moon -- a waxing crescent -- is clearly visible in a fading orange sky at 4:13 p.m. local time.
But its planetary companions aren't, until I raise a pair of binoculars to my eyes. In that circular field of view, Venus and Jupiter join the moon, although a bit bashfully at first. Still a bit too much daylight for their liking.
The threesome briefly becomes a foursome as a southbound 737 eases across the field of view, its underbelly glaring a bright orange from a sun now well below the horizon.
By 4:25, the two planets become visible to the naked eye, Jupiter just barely.
By 4:50, they glisten like diamond chips against the darkened sky. Earthshine reflects off the dark portion of the moon -- a faint, reflected blue-green glow. It's visible to the naked eye, far more so with binoculars.
For each viewer, this show will likely come with a unique soundtrack. Here, shouts and taunts from children playing basketball in a neighbor's driveway echo off nearby houses. Three geese, crossing the sky in their own kind of conjunction, honk their way to the local reservoir.
If you don't mind losing the moon, Venus and Jupiter will repeat this gig in 2011 and again in 2012, once in the morning and once in the early evening. But the next time the moon, Venus, and Jupiter gather like this will be Nov. 18, 2052. Reserve your seat now.