[ASC-media] Media release: Rare elongation of Mercury and Venus not visible again until 2134

Paul thestarman at homemail.com.au
Wed Nov 2 00:03:45 EST 2005

For immediate release - 2 November 2005

Rare elongation of Mercury and Venus 
not visible again until 2134

A rare planetary elongation involving Mercury and Venus will occur on 4
November 2005. This event last occurred on 19 March 2004 and will not occur
again until 2134.

Paul Floyd, www.paulfloyd.id.au webmaster and Canberra Science teacher said
"Given clear skies, an unusual planetary event will be visible on Friday 4
November 2005, involving Mercury and Venus which won't be repeated until
2134. Both planets will be perfectly placed in the early evening twilight
sky for viewing without a telescope, thanks to the fact that they both reach
an almost simultaneous maximum elongation from the Sun. On average, both
planets being positioned at their maximum apparent distance from the Sun
within hours of each other only occurs every 93 years." 

"From an astronomy educator's viewpoint, this is an event that I will not
see again in my lifetime. From the casual sky watchers viewpoint, it is not
only an event that has trivia value, but also happens to mark the best
opportunity to look at both planets at the same time in the evening sky for
2005. That includes even if you don't have a telescope as both planets are
easily visible to the unaided eye. A finder chart for this event can be
found on my site at www.paulfloyd.id.au."

"The reason for this 'line of sight' event being unusual has to do with the
differing orbital speeds of Mercury and Venus being combined with our own
planets movements. An analogy would be a race track where the cars are going
around at very different speeds. Instead of cars though, we are looking at
planets speeding around the Sun. Mercury is zipping around at 47.9
kilometres a second and Venus at 35 kilometres a second. This means it is
rare for them to be near each other on the same side of the race track or
solar system for that long. On top of that the Earth has to be positioned in
its orbit such that when we look at them, we are looking away from the Sun.
Not easy when the Earth itself is zipping around the racetrack at 29.8
kilometres a second!"

Mr Floyd concluded "I would encourage everyone to get out and have a look at
this event given its rarity. As a parent I will take my child out and show
her, simply because the next time it happens, it will be so far in the
future that she won't see the next one, even if she lives to be 120 years

--- ENDS ---

For more information:

Paul Floyd
Mobile: 040 888 4380
Secondary contact number: B/H (02) 6205 6833 (Calwell High School, ACT)

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