Start planet-watching this weekend (Feb. 25-26) as Moon passes Venus and Jupiter

Six Spectacular Months for Planet-watching: March-August 2012

In Mar.-Aug. 2012, students, parents, and teachers can enjoy: The Moon passing as many as five bright planets and five stars of first magnitude or brighter each month; four bright planets Mercury-Venus-Jupiter-Mars visible simultaneously at dusk in late February and early March; Venus-Jupiter as a close brilliant pair at dusk around March 13 (and at dawn around July 1); Venus in crescent phases this spring, culminating with its rare transit across face of Sun on June 5; Mars in early March brighter and closer than it’ll be again until its next approach to Earth in April 2014; four bright planets Jupiter-Venus-Mars-Saturn visible simultaneously each evening during most of March and April; Saturn and the star Spica visible all night in mid-April and paired more closely in spring and summer 2012 than they’ll be again until 2041; a major solar eclipse before sunset on May 20; a partial lunar eclipse before dawn on June 4; and a compact rendezvous of Mars, Saturn, and Spica at dusk just after Curiosity lands on the Red Planet in August.

 

These items may help students visualize and enjoy these events:

 

The February 2012 Sky Calendar and evening sky map, available at

www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/FebCalMap12.pdf

 

The April issue, now available at

www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar/

 

A 48” x 36” poster depicting sky events during February through August 2012, a 24” x 24” poster of planetary orbits including a data table for plotting the planets during 2012-2013, and a problem set on predicting planetary visibility from Earth and seasonal visibility of stars are all available by scrolling down at

www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/homeschool/index.html#poster
 
The two posters without the problem set are available separately at
www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/homeschool/celestialhighlights2012abrams.pdf 
and
www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/OrbitCharts2012-2013.pdf

 

A PowerPoint slide show of sky events during January through August 2012

is available at

www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/celest12.html

 

Details for California sky watchers of the May 20 solar eclipse and the June 5 transit of Venus with safe viewing methods will be provided in the May issue of California Classroom Science.

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