≡ Menu

Planetary Alignment Dazzles Weekend SkyWatchers

Saturn, Mars, Regulus and Moon - Richard McCoy

We warned you it was about to happen! Even though you may have been clouded out of viewing this weekend’s awesome alignment of Regulus, Mars and Saturn dancing with the Da Vinci Moon, our friendly photographers around the world were happy to share the view with us. Unlike the many erroneous myths that often surround such occurrences, planetary alignments are nothing more than the visible clockwork mechanism of our natural skies.

While Saturn and Mars descend through the “Sacred Hoop”, we have to remember that such alignments are not rare – just natural. Rumors and myths of calamities and catastrophe have abounded since the beginning or oral history when they occur, and it is amazing just how quickly these stories dissipate once the alignment has passed and nothing happened! Without rehashing doomsday prophecies, we need to take a closer look at alignments for just what they are…

An awesome display of celestial mechanics.

July 6 Alignment by Shevill Mathers

Each and every planetary alignment holds an opportunity to expand awareness about astronomy. It is a proven fact that the human eye follows the Gestalt Laws of Organization – the study of how people perceive visual components as organized patterns or wholes, instead of many different parts. We develop a fixation on such patterns when we see them. Ask yourself if your own eye is not drawn to this image of the alignment! The parallax is so far and so slow, that we simply cannot attach anything more than a mystical sense of wonder at the visualization. And that is not a bad thing… It draws people to require an explanation for what they see.

Be a good astronomer and stop misinformation in its tracks. When people you know ask about what they have seen in the sky, tell them! Explain how the stars and planets work just like a clock, each following their gear and routine. Alignments happen every hour… 1:05 and five seconds… 8:40 and 40 seconds.. and the sky is no different. If our eyes were sensitive enough, just think of all the deep sky alignments that occur each month as the Moon and planets traverse the ecliptic plane! How many stars hidden behind blue skies does our own Sun align with each and every second of the day?

And stay tuned for the next awe inspiring event…

The two incredible images of this weekend’s planetary alignment belong to Advanced Optical and Radio Astronomers International Associates members, Richard McCoy (panoramic image) and Shevill Mathers (closeup). We appreciate the time and energy you put into these photos and thank you for sharing with us!

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • byron July 8, 2008, 6:25 AM

    That is a good image of it. Too smoggy/cloudy up here on the east coast to capture it.. been waiting nearly 2 months for clear skies :(

  • law mc July 8, 2008, 6:32 AM

    we really need higher res versions of these pics. They are really lovely and i want them as my desktop background.

  • James July 8, 2008, 6:35 AM

    I find it hard to believe that we can see Saturn from Earth, since it’s so far away. And that it still looks as big as Mars.
    Shouldn’t it be too small to see?
    Also, does anyone know the most planets/celestial bodies ever photographed in alignment at a single time?

  • greg c July 8, 2008, 6:52 AM

    james, it is amazing, isn’t it? Saturn is just that enormous!

  • Mick July 8, 2008, 7:18 AM

    Wow great images, no clear sky’s for me here in the Middle of the UK :(

  • Vitor Martins July 8, 2008, 7:30 AM

    Greetings

    I have been observing this alignment since last week (ok, pre-alignment :)) with my FUJINON 16×70 binoculars. And yesterday, i point them to the moon (i just love the moon). Great contrast… Regarding seeing Saturn, well James, i must say that, just with the binoculars (i own a ETX125AT also) i can see Saturn more defined than Mars (again, with my binoculars) and “it’s” ring (can´t do Cassini division… :(, but that’s ok… for now ;)). Mars, thru my binoculars, always looks like a red star… but of course… i’m doing it in the city :(

  • James July 8, 2008, 9:01 AM

    I see how it makes sense, looking at the numbers.

    Mars is only .5 AU away from us, and has an equatorial radius of about .5 Earths.
    On the other hand, Saturn is 8.5 AU away from us, with equatorial radius of about 9.5 Earths.
    (If Wikipedia’s stats are accurate.)

    So they should be about the same size in the sky (Saturn maybe even a little bigger).

  • Marco Fitzgerald July 8, 2008, 10:02 AM

    from Bolivian sky looks amazing!!! :)

  • Marco Fitzgerald July 8, 2008, 10:04 AM

    winter nights is no-shadows… clean sky… :)

  • Marco Fitzgerald July 8, 2008, 10:06 AM

    no-clouds… forgive my english… sorry…

  • zifferman July 8, 2008, 11:21 AM

    You can see Uranus under ideal dark conditions and if your eye sight is good enough.

    Awaiting the usual juvenile jokes to go with the name of that planet.

  • JR July 8, 2008, 1:59 PM

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Anne July 9, 2008, 1:05 AM

    Beautiful

  • dallas September 28, 2008, 1:38 PM

    yeah toast :) :) :)

  • Tim December 6, 2008, 2:21 AM

    All of the planets were aligned (or most of them anyways) in the 1980s. Remember the apocalyptic worries around that time! HUGE earthquakes and the earth and some moons knocked out of their orbits, lol.

  • Michael Parker December 30, 2008, 2:41 AM

    Planetary alignments have been well noted throughout history of ancient civilizations to show significant meaning.

    It is just a bummer that this alignment has had nothing to do with 250 earthquakes at Yellow Stone National park in the past three days….or has it?

  • Apocalyptic 2012 January 5, 2009, 8:08 AM

    The next big year for celestial viewing with is in 2012. There will be three eclipses in that single year. The Mayan calendar ends on 12/21/2012. The earth has made a full rotation around its elliptical rotation (26,000) years to do so. The last time this happened, we came out of the little ice age, and cromagden man died off, and man as we currently know it started to thrive and live in caves and started to make camp fires with sticks and stones. They say on 12/21/2012, the sun will rise directly aligned with the center of galaxy, and this will mark a time of extreme solar and earth whether, which intern will change life as we know it. They say life will not end, but will change dramatically as we currently know it. Some say it has already started. Nostradamus spoke about this, as did the Egyptians and Mayans.

  • Abdur-Rehman January 19, 2009, 9:50 PM

    nice …..
    i wish that i could study these astonomical studies in detal…….

hide