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Question:
In my magazine Natural History, it said that it is possible to see Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars. I have seen Venus, and is very easy to spot. Do you have any tips on spotting the others without a telescope? Do you know when the next blue moon will occur?



Replies:
WHERE IS JACK HORKHEIMER WHEN WE NEED HIM?!?!?!

Sorry about that. Jack does a 5 minute fill spot for amateur astronomers that is broadcast on many PBS TV stations; he lives for questions like these. As for observing the planets, look for bright stars that do not twinkle, also, Mars is reddish. (extra-credit: Why do stars twinkle but not planets?)

Hawley



Check out Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines (often available at the public library) for directions on where to look for the planets month-by-- month. Mercury is currently in the glare of the Sun, so it cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is seldom easy to spot anyway; you usually have to know just where to look.

The expression "once in a blue moon" means "very seldom". It is not a regular occurrence. According to Jearl Walker's book "The Flying Circus of Physics", the Moon can appear bluish when the upper atmosphere contains dust from a volcanic eruption, or smoke from a forest fire, with particles of a size that preferentially scatter light from the red end of the spectrum, leaving the remaining light relatively enriched in blue.

TC Winther



The dictionary definition of blue moon is when two full moons occur in a single solar (secular) calendar month. This periodically occurs every 4 or so years.

Nathan Unterman


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