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Three Planets Racing this Weekend

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the on-your-marks dept.

Space 164

William Robinson writes "This report asks you to keep your eyes on the skies this weekend, when a rare triple-planetary alignment is going to happen. It promises a stellar show for star-gazers. Scott Young of the Manitoba Museum Planetarium says the planets in question -- Mercury, Venus and Saturn -- are all big enough to be seen without a telescope."

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164 comments

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909278)

Woohoo

Re:FP (1)

Genin (541781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909505)

weeaboo?

Why I rock and you don't:: (0, Troll)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909520)

Category Assignment Score Grade Date
Examinations Examination One 31 77% C+ 6/3/2005
Examination Two 35 70% C 6/9/2005
Examination Three 36 72% C 6/16/2005
Category Average 73% C

Essay(s) 14 70% C 6/15/2005

All planets aligned .. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909283)

Time to go and dig some mummies in Egypt

I DON'T THINK YOU COULD CAST WITH THAT SHIT. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909286)

Okay guys, uh, these eggs are giving us a lot of trouble in the past.
Uh, does anybody need anything off this guy or can we bypass him?

Uh, I think Leeroy needs something from this guy.

Oh, d'he...he needs his "Devout Shoulders"? Doesn't, isn't he a paladin?

Yeah, but that'll help him heal better. He'll have more mana.

(sigh) Christ. Okay, uh, well, what we'll do, I'll run in first, uh,
gather up all the eggs. We can kind of just, you know, blast 'em all
down with AOE. Um, I will use "intimidating shout" to kind of scatter
'em so we don't have to fight a whole bunch of them at once. Uh, when
my shout's done, uh, I'll need Anfrony to come in and drop his shout
too, uh, so we can keep 'em scattered and not have to fight too
many. Um, when his is done, Bass, of course, 'll have to run in and do
the same thing. Um, we're gonna need "Divine Intervention" on our mages,
uh so they can uh, AE, uh, so we of course can get 'em down fast
because we're bringing all these guys, I mean, we'll be in trouble if
we don't take 'em down quick.

I think it's a pretty good plan. We should be able to pull it off
this time. Uh, what do you think abduhl, can you give me a number
crunch real quick?

Uhh, yeah, give me a sec, I'm coming up with 32.33, uh, repeating of
course, percentage of survival.

Well that's a lot better than we usually do. uh, (inaudible) about
ready guys?

Allright, chum-bums, let's do this. LEEEEROOY MMMJYEENKINS!

Oh my God, he just ran in.

Save him!

O jeez, stick to the plan!

Oh Jesus.

Let's go. Let's go.

Stick to the plan, chums! Stick to the plan!

Oh gee, oh fuck.

(inaudible) Divine Intervention.

Hurry up!

Re:I DON'T THINK YOU COULD CAST WITH THAT SHIT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909407)

Leeroy, you're an idiot.

Why do you this?

Yeah, thanks Leeroy.

At least I got chicken.

WE DO HAVE A SOUL STONE UP, DON'T WE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909450)

Why do you do this shit, Leeroy?

I'm trying. It's not my fault.

Whose Soul Stone?

We do have a Soul Stone up, don't we?

(inaudible) Warlock.

Oh god
Oh for...sigh

(inaudible)

Leeroy you are just stupid as hell.

(inaudible)

At least I have chicken.

That's no Moon! It's uh, um.. (5, Funny)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909289)

" And while star-gazers will be able to obscure all three planets simply by holding their outstretched thumb to the sky, Young reminds them appearances can be deceiving.

"In reality, the planets are millions of kilometres apart," he said. "They only appear close in the sky because of our perspective. Saturn is actually over a billion kilometres behind Mercury."


Oh thank God. I thought they were all going to crash into one another, showering the earth with deadily meteors or something. THANK YOU for thet reminder, Mr. Young.

Re:That's no Moon! It's uh, um.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909464)

Well, that was foolish. God's crystal spheres the planets are mounted on are controlled by God, and He would never let that happen...

[This is a JOKE, people! Laugh at religion, not with it!]

Science for non-scientists (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909515)

Thing is, the conjunction isn't really all that interesting, scientifically. It's interesting mostly because it's rare, and it's a way to get the vigorously nonscientific to actually watch the planets move across the sky. Go out on two successive nights and you can watch them move relative to each other.

No biggie for your college-educated, Slashdot-reading brain, but a lot of people are bored stiff by science. Turn on Jeopardy some day and watch as the board clears of every category except Science. Not always, but too often.

There's an awful lot of people who don't really get how the planetary orbits work, and probably DO think that they would collide. I bet you know at least some of them. Take them out and show them the conjunction. Take them out on successive nights and describe how we can figure out the heliocentric universe from the observations.

Re:Science for non-scientists (5, Funny)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909729)

Take them out on successive nights and describe how we can figure out the heliocentric universe from the observations.

"After our first date I couldn't get a hold of her. I even left a message telling her how I would teach her how to figure out the heliocentric universe from our observations. Hmmm, she must have left town for an emergency, but lost my number and couldn't call. Let me sit by the phone and wait."

Re:Science for non-scientists (2, Insightful)

rxmd (205533) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909785)

Take them out and show them the conjunction. Take them out on successive nights and describe how we can figure out the heliocentric universe from the observations.
The funny thing is by the same "taking someone out and showing them", you can explain geocentric or sphere-based universes to them just as well, and they would believe it, too. And if anything remotely bad happened this weekend, they'd probably be gullible enough to believe it's because of the planets.

Re:Science for non-scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909808)

Take them out on successive nights and describe how we can figure out the heliocentric universe from the observations.

The universe is not even heliocentric either! You mean the solar system.

Re:That's no Moon! It's uh, um.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909523)

Actually, I think you have the "journalist" to thank for that one. Everything must be sensationalized!

Re:That's no Moon! It's uh, um.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909552)

You have to remember, this article is written by the Winnipeg Sun, which is a horrendous tabloid. Those things that we find silly in the article are still probably questions the reporter asked. The only good thing about the newspaper is the sports section, which is far superior to the Winnipeg Free Press.

Planet spotting (5, Interesting)

tolkienfan (892463) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909293)

Mercury is actually quite hard to see because it's close to the sun - you can only catch it at certain times of the year and only ever close to dawn and dusk.

Venus is similar - but less so.

Saturn is often in the sky, and is a beautiful sight through a telescope.

I can't wait to see them all so close together - Let's hope for clear skies!

Re:Planet spotting (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909486)

Although I can't admit to being much of a stargazer, I thought Venus was visible all but year round... Isn't that how it got the whole Morning Star, Evening Star reputation?

Re:Planet spotting (1)

qurk (87195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909653)

It does switch between evening/morning star, but in between times, while the planet is either directly in front of the sun relative to us, or behind the sun, or when it is so close to the sun that it's glare usually drowns it out, then you're not going to be able to view it. Mercury switches between morning/evening as well, even faster than Venus.

Re:Planet spotting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909853)

Let's hope for clear skies!

Even if the skies were clear I think there's no chance for me. :-(

Danged mountains to the west!

I'm going to buy a telescope! (2, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909297)

This event has convinced me to buy a telescope! I must see this first hand. What sort of telescope would be ideal for an amateur astronomer such as myself to view such a planetary event?

Binoculars would be ideal (4, Informative)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909322)

If you are just starting, get some binoculars.

Binoculars and a star chart.

Re:Binoculars would be ideal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909394)

... get some binoculars.

They will also help you see all of those young nubile Wiccas dancing around naked for this event!

Hmmmmm, naked Wiccas!

Re:Binoculars would be ideal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909790)

it's WiccaNs, actually... ... and not all of us practice Skyclad.

Re:Binoculars would be ideal (2, Informative)

basilpronoun (700414) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909823)

Also, get the book 'Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe' by Terence Dickinson.

Re:I'm going to buy a telescope! (2, Informative)

Renegade Lisp (315687) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909364)

What sort of telescope would be ideal for an amateur astronomer such as myself to view such a planetary event?

The event itself (meaning the triple-constellation) is probably best observed with the naked eye, or a simple pair of binoculars, because any decent telescope will have a smaller field of view than the area the three planets will be spread out over.

Even with binoculars (when mounted to a tripod), you will be able to see a faint indication of Saturn's rings (indicated by the fact that it doesn't look like a symmetric blob, but just a little stretched along the horizontal axis. Galileo, when he first saw this with similar equipment, thought he was seeing three bodies right next to each other). You will also see some of Saturn's moons, and the current phase of Venus.

Real astronomer's equipment can of course get you much much further.

Re:I'm going to buy a telescope! (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909448)

I too must see this first hand. Except last time I was checking out some bizarre astrological alignment, I was disappointed to observe nothing.

How about some more info? Is there a site that says what time U.S time zone the alignment might appear on. What exact direction on a compass? You know, something a noob can follow. I got my binoculars and camera ready, but that's all I have. Please help.

Re:I'm going to buy a telescope! (2, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909711)

Is there a site that says what time U.S time zone the alignment might appear on. What exact direction on a compass?

There are lots of astronomical programs. One small, simple and free one is Starcalc [m31.spb.ru] . Just set it up with your latitude and longitude and it'll show you the sky at any time past present or future. Anyway, this shows that this is not a brief duration event like an eclipse but the three planets are very close over several days.

Re:I'm going to buy a telescope! (1)

Quirk (36086) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909524)

DYI [howstuffworks.com] it's easy and you get geek points.

Re:I'm going to buy a telescope! (2, Informative)

ZappaSoft (579234) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909710)

Dobsonian telescopes are very easy to use, beginner models are not very expensive and at the same time, you get the most bang for your buck, because the morror sizes on dobsonian telescopes tend to be a lot bigger than on refractors you would get at department stores for the same price. You can get a 4.5" Orion SkyQuest dobsonian telescope for $199 and really see a lot with it, tyr this url http://www.telescope.com/shopping/product/detailma in.jsp?itemID=364&itemType=PRODUCT&iMainCat=4&iSub Cat=9&iProductID=364 [telescope.com] . You might find these at a near by planetarium. If you are in a big city, even a very big telescope won't help you much because of all the light pollution. But on clear skies in the middle of nowhere, the 4.5" dobsonian will really let you see lot's of things. Tonight, you should be able to see all three planets really well with a 35mm or 45mm eyepiece. If you don't want to spend the money on a telescope, get some binoculars, but a telescope is a lot more fun once you get into it. Also, before you go, open up KStars, if you have Linux, that will help you with finding where things are at in the sky. Good luck!

Re:I'm going to buy a telescope! (1)

Vitamin P (837888) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909809)

That depends on what you want to use the telescope for when you are not looking at this event. A dorm room of the appropiate sex is one possible alternate idea.

Light pollution (2, Interesting)

sckeener (137243) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909300)

Considering I live in Houston, I doubt I'll be seeing anything. Light pollution is atrocious. When I want to see the night sky, I have to go camping.

Horizons and light pollution (2, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909494)

At least camping is an option. I live on the East Coast, and real darkness is many hours away. And even then the horizons are usually obscured by trees. But even I can see the conjunction.

I'm sure the light pollution is pretty bad in Houston, but Saturn and Venus are easily visible even against that, and given those indicators it's not hard to find Mercury. You may have to go to the 'burbs rather than in the city proper, but I bet you could find it on top of a large building. The planets are pretty bright, and the problem in a city is more about horizon than light pollution.

Try viewing from... (1)

tolkienfan (892463) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909708)

...the moon!

ok ok stop throwing things!

Seriously, I'll bet the view from the moon or other Earth orbit, would be spectacular.
Imagine: Mercury, Earth, Venus and Saturn together in the sky...

Oh to be an astronaut...

Re:Light pollution (1)

GlassUser (190787) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909795)

Considering I live in Houston, I doubt I'll be seeing anything. Light pollution is atrocious. When I want to see the night sky, I have to go camping.

Posh. I live in Clear Lake (far SE side of Houston for non-locals) and I could easily see saturn and venus last night. Driving a half hour longer would get me a full view.

All right.. (-1, Troll)

sh0dan (762382) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909302)

This is all right, as long as I don't have to look up at Uranus.

Re:All right.. (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909343)

Sir,

For most people, those "uranus == your anus" jokes went out of style by the time the person was five or six years old. You, sir, are a pathetic cockfool.

Sincerely,
CyricZ

Re:All right.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909424)

You said 'cock'. Kekekekekekekekekekekekekeke

Re:All right.. (1)

BetterThanCaesar (625636) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909463)

Scientists renamed Uranus in 2636 to end that joke, once and for all.

Now it's called Urectum.

Planet Racing? ... (4, Funny)

GreatRedShark (880833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909304)

I want to know what odds the people in Vegas are giving to Mercury. I've got a lucky feeling about that planet!

Re:Planet Racing? ... (1)

EnderWigginsXenocide (852478) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909665)

With the light polution that Vegas pumps out I don't think they can even see Mercury (except the ones in the parking buildings.)

Longhorn (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909311)

Next year, the planets will all align themselves to spell out the word, Longhorn, to kick off Microsoft's new advertising campaign for the upcoming version of Windows. This of course, all depends if thier wireless networks can't be hacked again while they are sending the signals to the planets.

Disharmonious Noncordance (2, Informative)

amstrad (60839) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909314)

Some people are idiots [harmonicconcordance.com] . Other people are not [badastronomy.com] .

Re:Disharmonious Noncordance (2, Insightful)

Adelbert (873575) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909713)

I love how "Some people are idiots. Other people are not" gets modded "3, Informative".

I have some others: some people are conservative, others are not. Some people eat meat, others do not. Some people read Slashdot, others have a social life.

Come on mod points. I'm ready for you!

Seriously though, if you haven't seen Bad Astronomy, do. Go to it. It rocks.

Re:Disharmonious Noncordance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909797)

here ya go!!

-3 Sour Grapes

Even A stopped clock. (1)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909316)

" "What we're seeing is the clockwork of the solar system," Young said." ...Which is what we see 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But thanks for pointing out the obvious. I'm still trying to decide who is responsible for this innane conversation, that Young guy or the person asking him to expound on the alignment.

Re:Even A stopped clock. (1)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909625)

You go to school for 7 years, get an advanced degree, and work hard in your field. Then answer stupid grade-school science questions from someone who doesn't believe that we went to the moon, thinks the earth was created in 144 hours, believes that their cat was abducted by aliens six times (thus explaining her six litters), and doesn't remember which way the heliocentric vs geocentric affair turned out. Repeat every two or three days for several years. Let's see if you don't start talking down to people.

Correction (3, Funny)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909323)

It promises a stellar show for star-gazers.

I'm afraid you've misunderstood this. It's not a stellar, it's planetary.

Re:Correction (1)

SleepyShamus (599356) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909522)

What do youe expect from a newspaper that doesn't know the difference between astroNOMERs and astroLOGERs!

From TFA:
Young describes Mercury as an "elusive planet," noting most people, astrologers included, have never seen it.

Re:Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909525)

Even better: "Young describes Mercury as an "elusive planet," noting most people, astrologers included, have never seen it."

_astrologers_ ?!

The scary bit is that Young may know his audience.

--dungeness

Re:Correction (1)

einhverfr (238914) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909603)

It is actually funny really. My grandmother taught astronomy and astrology at a number of universities.

She had a student once who failed her class and came back and asked her why he had failed his astrology classes. She said "That's why" and left it at that.

BTW, she (Georgann Caughlin) was co-author of the important paper known as FCZ (Fowler, Caughlin, and Zimmerman) on nuclear astrophysics for which Fowler ultimately won the nobel prize.

Re:Correction (1)

Stankatz (846709) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909749)

Damn, you beat me to it. By the way, have you jumped over any lazy dogs lately?

Big or small moon? (3, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909324)

When aligned, the planets will fit into a piece of sky the same size as a full moon.

Is that the low hanging moon [slashdot.org] or the smaller moon?

Re:Big or small moon? (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909819)

That's smaller than a dime at arm's length regardless of which one.

you mean I have to do something? (1)

fiftyLou (472705) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909332)


To catch the show, go outside after sunset today and find a spot with a clear view of the western horizon,...

man that sounds like alot of effort. How about if I just bookmark the 'planet' tag over at Flickr?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/planet/ [flickr.com]

US Race Fans Widely Dissapointed (5, Funny)

Sv-Manowar (772313) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909339)

After a six car US F1 GP, only three planets racing this weekend?

Re:US Race Fans Widely Dissapointed (2, Funny)

haystor (102186) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909502)

If you step back just a bit you can get the earth into view also.

I wonder... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909351)

A rare triple-planetary alignment, huh? Could this open some eyes and increase interest in alternative (Linux, Mac) offerings?

Are there any simulations available for viewing? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909352)

Are there any simulations of this event that we can view online? Indeed, I would even enable Flash to watch such a simulation!

Or is this the sort of thing you need a Cray and hundreds of thousands of lines of Fortran to model accurately?

Not online, but.... (1)

Clueless Moron (548336) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909390)

Celestia [sourceforge.net] rocks for all your astronomy needs, if you have a decent video card. Accept no substitutes.

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (1)

RobertF (892444) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909414)

I admit that I'm a lazy sod, but even I can be arsed enough to get out of my chair and go outside to see it!

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (4, Informative)

Junta (36770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909415)

Not specifically for this event, but a really awesome simulator for astronomy stuff in general is celestia. http://www.shatters.net/celestia/ [shatters.net]

Click on the earth, hit g (actually celestia starts you at earth), you can hit o to mark orbits to make it easier to find the planets (hit p to show labels to identify the planets themselves.)
I hit shift-g to go to the surface of earth and then find the planets. Can give you a good idea where to look really. Being on the surface isn't particularly important at first, don't want the planet being between you and your destination until you are sure it wouldn't be.

It doesn't always much like things really do, especially with atmospheric simulation not being particularly complex in celestia, but it is cool none the less. Particularly to click on one of the three planets close together, hit g, then look at everything from their perspective.

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909431)

I meant ctrl-g, not shift g, a really cool app, for those playing around, hitting 'h' selects sol, then you can hit g to get back to familiar territory.

Celestia URL (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909707)

cel://syncorbit/Sol%3AEarth/2005-06-25T17%3A49%3A0 8.00000?x=sbsIqCwAe9e+DA&y=DhVf7tVWGQ&z=ZSnBOVkXLQ UQ&ow=0.249240&ox=-0.207134&oy=-0.047122&oz=-0.944 857&select=Sol:Earth&fov=32.524258&ts=0.000000&ltd =0&rf=71571&lm=2
This is a view from Earth's surface (US East coast) of the three planets. As always, beware of spaces/line breaks in the URL (alt-g to open arbitrary URL).

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909504)

Or is this the sort of thing you need a Cray and hundreds of thousands of lines of Fortran to model accurately?

If you have a Linux box with KDE, it might have come with KStars, which is a very nifty program. I just pulled it up, and the three planets are really close together.

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (2, Informative)

eclectro (227083) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909558)

To see what it looks like you could go to APOD [nasa.gov] , which is good for your little daily Astronomy fix/news.

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909576)

I found some simulation images:

Here is photo1: ...

Here is the zoomed in annotated version:

Mercury Venus
\ /
o o o
\
Saturn

Re:Are there any simulations available for viewing (1)

borl (586949) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909851)

Yes, see below.

. . . *time passes* ... *time passes* .

Thats what I call "flamebait" (1)

bohemian_observer (886213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909358)

Does anybody still can see anything in the night? I mean I can hardly see what is 10 meters from me (as most of the shortsighted PC addicts).

Re:Thats what I call "flamebait" (1)

Adelbert (873575) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909734)

If you were trying to make a joke out of this for the /. audience, I'd have gone with "you insensitive clod". Obviously, though, you shun memes. They do that it Soviet Russia, too, only its slightly different over there...

Am I the only one wondering (2, Funny)

sholde4 (815798) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909362)

Time could be helpful...

Re:Am I the only one wondering (2, Informative)

tomlouie (264519) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909420)

From the article: "To catch the show, go outside after sunset today and find a spot with a clear view of the western horizon, Young said. As the sky darkens, Venus will be the first astral body to emerge, as it's the brightest object in the heavens after the sun and moon. Mercury and Saturn will show themselves soon afterward -- both being about as bright as the other, and shining with a pale, yellowish light."

Tom

Astronomers NOT Astrologers (2, Insightful)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909386)

From TFA: Young describes Mercury as an "elusive planet," noting most people, astrologers included, have never seen it.

I don't see how this is so unusual, since it's an astrologer's job to look into the future, not to look into space (that would be an astronomer's job).

Re:Astronomers NOT Astrologers (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909449)

It's their job to look into the future by looking at the positions of the stars and the planets. You put Mercury on a birth chart and use it to work out personality traits, and conjunctions of it with something else are of course important

/IANAA

Re:Astronomers NOT Astrologers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909720)

Technically speaking, they're actually looking into the future by pulling guesses out of their ass and pretending it's scientific.

Minor distinction there.

Three planets are aligning? (2, Informative)

chriswaclawik (859112) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909389)

Looks like it's time to cue "Also sprach Zarathustra," by Richard Strauss.

(for the ill-informed, it's the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey that goes: duhhhh....duhhh....DUHHHHHH... [dun dun dun dun dun dun])

Triple or quadruple (1)

AntiCopyrightRadical (690243) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909436)

I assume the phrase triple alignment arises because we see three planets near each other in the sky, but this really means that four planets (counting Earth) are nearly in line with each other.
It's probably not so uncommon for three planets to be nearly colinear, it's just rare that we are in a colinear position to see them.

Need a starchart? (2, Informative)

lethalwp (583503) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909474)

Hello,

If you need a good starchart to find stars/constellations/planets, i have one big recommendation for you, it's called skymap:
http://skymap.com/products.htm [skymap.com]

you can use it in a demo version which is already very useful for a starter.

Way to go! =)

Re:Need a starchart? (1)

quasi_steller (539538) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909612)

Or, if you want, you can try XEphem [clearskyinstitute.com] a program written for X-windows (and hence will run on Linux!). It is free (as in beer) for non-commercial use. The license isn't GPL or anything like that, for you purists, however, when it comes to ephemeris software, I don't think there are enough options out there to be too picky about the license.

Low tides/Earthquakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909493)


It may just be something I have notice but with the extreme low tides and the numerous quakes lately but there may be a connection?

Astronomy over Astrology, Please (2, Informative)

PingXao (153057) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909507)

I almost fell out of my chair when I RTFA. "Mercury is a planet few people, even astrologers, have ever seen." WTF? Is this Slashdot or the Nancy Reagan hotline [time.com] ? There's a better article at Sky and Telescope [skyandtelescope.com] without any of the mumbo jumbo.

Re:Astronomy over Astrology, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909666)

Maybe it wasn't a mistake, since astrology has everything to do with the position of the planets relative to each other and to constellations. Way to jump the phaser, nerd boy.

About that ticking noise... (1)

catbertscousin (770186) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909509)

The first stage of the alignment has started! It only happens once every five thousand years, and evil people are ready to find the triangle and take over the world if someone doesn't stop them!!!!

Out of curiosity, does a full alignment of the planets only happen once every 5,000 years?

Old news! (1)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909512)

My cult and I have known about this for years, we're having a Kool-Aid party in honor of our impending transformation.

I trust you all will marvel at our new godhood!

Re:Old news! (1)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909652)

Man, a post like that takes balls. Oops, nevermind.

k, am I the onlyone who notices... (1)

5plicer (886415) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909514)

that Earth is BETWEEN Saturn and Venus, there fore the only planet's we'll see lined up are Mercury and Venus?

Imagine the orbits... (2, Informative)

mister_llah (891540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909538)

Well, assuming we are all in a straight line, 2D model... but not all orbits move on the same speed, and our only view of the heavenly sky isn't a direct path to the sun...

So imagine looking up from earth, towards the sun, then to the sun's 11:15, let's say... we have a line up...

They aren't all at the same "position" in their orbits, but they may line up...

Re:k, am I the onlyone who notices... (1)

5plicer (886415) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909551)

oh wait... never mind... I was thinking that they'd be lined up with the sun as well. I'm a dolt :p

Re:k, am I the onlyone who notices... (2, Informative)

close_wait (697035) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909590)

that Earth is BETWEEN Saturn and Venus, there fore the only planet's we'll see lined up are Mercury and Venus?

No, Saturn is currently on the opposite side of the sun from us, so we are not between them.

Re:k, am I the onlyone who notices... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909639)

Lost a planet, Master 5plicer has. How embarassing, how embarassing.
Overview of our current solar system: http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y252/CaseGvtgj/so larsytem.gif [photobucket.com]

Astrologers versus astronomers (1)

pomakis (323200) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909517)

From the article:

Young describes Mercury as an "elusive planet," noting most people, astrologers included, have never seen it.

Surely the article meant astronomers. Since when have astrologers ever taken an interest in actually looking at the night sky (other than to determine, of course, what tomorrow's horiscope brings)?

Re:Astrologers versus astronomers (1)

Elf-friend (554128) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909704)

...other than to determine, of course, what tomorrow's horiscope brings
Even then there would be no point. Mundane astrology (the kind concerned with horoscopes) has never accounted for the precession of the equinoxes. Therefore, the tables (which are based on tables from Babylonia over two-thousand years old) have long since ceased to have any relation to the actual positions of the stars.

Perhaps they mean natural astrology, which, IIRC, is an old term for astronomy.

While were at it, though others have probably noticed as well, the reason we can see these planets is not because they are "big enough," it's that they are close enough. Uranus and Neptune are much bigger than Mercury, but we don't usually notice them with the naked eye (though it is possible under ideal conditions).

A coincidence (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909565)

Literally just before reading this story, I was playing 'Elite II' and trying to navigate to Mercury. If course Elite II isn't the best game in the world, and the task was impossible, as I flew up and down, each time missing and ending up 1+ AU on the other side. Apparently the designers didn't think to give you proper control over your accelerators, nor to give you your speed relative to your destination, but instead to some arbitrary object. So when going to Mercury, my speed was relative to Jupiter, making both the speed controller and indicator completely worthless. At one point, the flow of the stars were showing me going forwards, but Mercury right in front of me was moving AWAY from me! And sometimes I could deccelerate almost instantly, and some times it would take ages until I was right back where I started, making reaching other planets a complete impossibility.

I suppose that's what happens when game designers let technical aspects and graphics get in the way of the interface and playability. The documentation only mentions using the autopilot, but my ship doesn't come with an autopilot! And even when it does, it often crashes me right into planets!

Actually come to think of it, when is someone going to make a PROPER space game? Like Elite, but done properly so it's actually enjoyable to play?

Re:A coincidence (1)

indifferent children (842621) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909667)

I was playing 'Elite II' and trying to navigate to Mercury ... the task was impossible, as I flew up and down, each time missing and ending up 1+ AU on the other side.

What part of 'elusive planet' was unclear?

Re:A coincidence (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909732)

It's not just that, it's every planet. The whole game's unplayable. But I suppose that's what happens when you write something in assembly.

Re:A coincidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909684)

Well, Vega Strike is about halfway there. Its flight model is fantastic, and its trading system is functional. Its combat system is realistic and yet playable, though you'd better save money for an auto-tracking unit right off the bat. Ah, if only the universe didn't sound like it was written by a /. troll.. (By this I mean things like "Newsflash! Liberal Space Pussies at it again! Godless commies of the Socialist Faction repulsed at Rigel by the fleet of the way-cool Internet-Brain-Implant Techno-Guys Faction!")

My money is on Mercury... (3, Funny)

gunner800 (142959) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909575)

It has the inside track.

A good discription (1)

pjbgravely (751384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909626)

For a better discription, especially for newbies watch This [nyud.net] . I cannot figure out how to Coral catch the video so try to only watch the 1 min version to save their server.

Re:A good discription (1)

pjbgravely (751384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12909712)

I figured it out. Coral catch of the 5 Min. Real video [nyud.net]

Not yet.... hmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12909717)

DANGER Will Robinson, DANGER!
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