Above: view from the roof of the parking structure near Abrams Planetarium
On clear evenings from Monday, Aug. 22 through Sunday, Aug. 28, Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University will host sky-watching sessions including telescopic views of four of the five naked-eye planets.
The sessions will be held nightly (as sky conditions permit) from 8:45 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., on the top level of the Parking Ramp immediately behind the Planetarium. Access to the top (4th) level is by stairs at the southwest or northwest corner of the Parking Ramp, or by elevator at the southwest corner.
On any of the scheduled evenings, arrive on time at 8:45 p.m. if you want to be sure to catch Venus and Jupiter before they sink too low in the west. The view will be spectacular through binoculars – bring a pair if you can. As the sky darkens, we’ll also observe a clustering of Mars, Saturn, and Antares, which will change its appearance nightly. Among telescopic views, Saturn, with its rings tipped almost as much as possible from edgewise, will steal the show. Some have described their first telescopic view of Saturn as a life-changing experience.
Monday, Aug 22, the first evening in our one-week series of nightly sky-watching sessions: Arrive on time at 8:45 p.m. to catch Venus 5° lower right of Jupiter!
On Monday through Thursday, August 22-25, we’ll witness Mars passing between Antares and the planet Saturn. On August 23 and 24, in order from top to bottom, Saturn, Mars, and Antares will lie in a nearly straight line, as Mars goes about 4° below Saturn and 2° above Antares! Arrive on time at 8:45 p.m. to follow nightly changes in the appearance of Venus and Jupiter.
During Friday through Sunday, August 26-28, we’ll catch Venus and Jupiter within the same telescope field, as follows:
On Friday Aug 26, Venus will appear less than one degree to the lower right of Jupiter.
Saturday, Aug 27: This is first evening Jupiter appears to lower right of Venus. The planets are less than one-eighth of a degree apart, as seen from mid-Michigan.
Sunday, Aug 28: Venus and Jupiter appear just 1.1° apart, with Jupiter to the lower right of Venus. Their separation increases by about 1° daily,
until Jupiter drops out of view.
A Sky Calendar illustration for August 21-31 is available here.
Abrams Planetarium is located at 755 Science Rd., on the MSU Campus.
Robert Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing sky watching opportunities for public and school groups. Tawfik Abbas is currently an astronomy student at MSU and a show presenter for the Planetarium.
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Note: This article was originally published on August 22, 2016.