Tomorrow, see Neptune using Jupiter as a guiding light

May 27th, 2009 - 2:36 pm ICT by ANI  

London, May 27 (ANI): Tomorrow morning, sky watchers, using Jupiter as a guiding light, will be able to catch a glimpse of Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system.

The gas giant Neptune is too far-flung to be visible to the naked eye.

Spotting the planet can be tricky even for observers using binoculars or backyard telescopes, because it appears as a small bluish dot in the sea of stars.

But, according to a report in New Scientist, tomorrow morning, viewers worldwide will see Neptune and Jupiter in conjunction, or seemingly close together in the sky.

“Jupiter makes a great signpost for casual stargazers to find Neptune,” noted astronomer Mark Hammergren of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.

Jupiter will be the brightest “star” in an almost moonless night sky, a sight Hammergren describes as unmistakable.

Viewers, using at least a small telescope or strong binoculars, can then search just north of Jupiter for a tiny bluish “star,” which Hammergren says will be fainter than Jupiter but still easily visible.

The two gas giants will appear closest to each other by about 2 a.m. local time, but they will stay relatively near for several days.

Tomorrow’s conjunction will be the first of three this year, with the next two celestial meet-ups on July 9 and December 21.

Oddly, a Neptune-Jupiter conjunction nearly 400 years ago almost allowed Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei to “pre-discover” Neptune, which was not confirmed as a planet until 1846, Hammergren said.

In 1612, shortly after the invention of the telescope, Galileo famously had his instrument trained on Jupiter and its moons.

“Galileo drew Jupiter along with some of its background stars-and one of those stars was actually Neptune,” Hammergren said.

Galileo saw the “star” again near Jupiter in 1613 and noted in his logs that it appeared to be slightly farther away from another previously recorded star.

“If only he had followed up a little more closely,” Hammergren said. “If he had, it would have been fantastic, because Neptune would have been discovered centuries earlier,” he added. (ANI)

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