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UAE residents in for celestial treat as Jupiter and Venus to align

posted on 01/07/2015: 1790 views

Residents across the country will be able to witness the rare alignment of Venus and Jupiter after sunset on Wednesday.

The conjunction of planets, which happens approximately every two years, will be closest on Wednesday evening, when the two planets will have only 0.7 degrees of separation.

Astronomers and space experts said the event will be a fascinating sight for anyone who looks westward from sunset to about 9pm, and it could be a good opportunity to study the planets.

"If you have a telescope, you will see something dramatic,” said Nezar Sallam, president of the Emirates Mobile Observatory.

"Venus will look like a crescent moon and, next to it, you will see Jupiter and the band, as well as the storm of Jupiter if we are lucky, which is called the Great Red Spot and has been on the surface of the planet for the last 400 years.”

Mr Sallam is one of many who will use his telescope to witness the event.

"The best time will be from 8pm to 8.30pm because after that, both objects will be very low in the horizon,” he said.

"The layer of the atmosphere will be very thick so it will be difficult to spot. But this is really special as Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System.”

Dr Ilias Fernini, associate professor of astronomy at the UAE University, said the sight would be a beautiful one to witness astronomically.

"These are very bright planets,” he said.

"Venus is one of the brightest ones because it has a very thick atmosphere, which means it reflects a lot of sunlight. It's also the closest one to us – about 46 million kilometres, while Jupiter is quite far away, about 750 million kilometres.”

He said conjunctions were generally important. "For instance, if you have Saturn or Jupiter passing behind the Moon, we can compute the speed of the planet,” he said.

"You just have to time how long the planet will be behind the Moon, which is very important in terms of astronomical calculations.”

Dr Humaid Al Nuaimi, director of the Sharjah Centre for Space Sciences and Astronomy, said planets aligning was common, unless it involved more than five of them, which could take years.

"The distance of these planets from the Sun are different,” he said.

"Their rotational speed around the Sun and orbits are different, therefore from time to time they will align.”

He said, in some cases, it can further astronomical research. ”We can get more information about them, such as the physical properties, the dimensions and the shape,” he said.

"So it's astronomically important. But with new technology, there are lots of probes and spacecraft that study these planets, they rotate around them and they are located on the planet, like Venus and Mars.”

Hassan Al Hariri, chief executive of the Dubai Astronomy Group, said there had been about 26 or 27 conjunctions in the past 50 years.

"They happen almost every two years,” he said. "And the beauty of it is that they come quite close to each other.

"People who love astronomy will be fascinated, and it's a monumental thing [to see] on a personal level.”

He will also observe the phenomenon with a telescope.

"Everybody can easily go break their fast and go out to look at the west,” he said. "It's visible around the world.”

Although this conjunction has no special meaning, others can provide a good opportunity for research, especially during an occultation, which occurs when a planet moves behind another.

"It would allow light to go through and we can witness Venus's atmosphere,” he said.

"In this case, they won't, but this event is just a beauty for astrophotographers and enthusiasts. My telescope will be set up to capture the event.” – The National -


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