The Planets in 2012

Posted: December 19, 2011 in Alignments, Observing, Planets

When I was young one of my favourite books was “Amateur Astronomer” by Antonin Rükl.  It contained impressive charts showing where the planets would be from 1980 until the unfeasibly futuristic year of 2000.

I’ve compiled an elongation chart for the planets in 2012.  Here’s a low res picture:

Click the following link for the high-resolution PDF version (2012plot)

The planets shown are Mercury (m), Venus (V), Mars (M), Jupiter (J) and Saturn (S).  The positions of the planets are shown relative to the Sun, which runs up the middle on the vertical axis.  The wavy yellow band indicates regions of the sky not visible because they are masked by the glare of the Sun (civil twilight at 55 degrees North).

The great thing about this kind of chart is that it shows the positions of the planets for the entire year at a glance.  You can see immediately, for example, which planets are visible in the morning sky next November (Mercury, Venus and Saturn).  Conjunctions occur when the lines intersect.  There are four well placed conjunctions in 2012 (numbered circles in the chart).  Further details of these are given in the PDF version of the chart.

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