Monday, June 7, 2010

Mars and Regulus

Tonight, after sunset, I saw Mars and Regulus in a close conjunction in the west. Regulus is a first magnitude star in the constellation of Leo the Lion.

Mars and Regulus are only about one degree apart. That's pretty close for two of the brightest objects in the sky.

There were two things I found interesting.

One is that you could fit two full moons between the pair, because the full moon is about a half degree wide. Usually the moon looks pretty big, because of the Moon Illusion. But knowing that TWO moons would fit in that tiny space illustrates just how small the moon really appears to us.

The second point of interest is the color. Mars is currently the same brightness as Regulus, but you can tell them apart because of their different colors. Regulus is a blue-white star, while Mars is a reddish-butterscotch planet. Many people have trouble seeing that stars are various colors, but seeing these two objects close together should make it obvious.

Don't forget to look at Venus, the brilliant object to their lower right!

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