Moon and Companions

StarDate: December 8, 2012

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What we see in the night sky isn’t just a matter of what we perceive with our eyes. It’s also a matter of what we think about it.

A lineup of planets in the morning sky this month is a case in point. To most of us, it’s a beautiful celestial display — a picture to savor. But for a few, it’s something to fear.

The planets line up to the lower left of the Moon at first light tomorrow. From top to bottom, they’re Saturn, Venus, and Mercury. Venus is by far the brightest of the three — it’s the brilliant “morning star.” And to add to the display, the star Spica is quite close to the upper left of the Moon.

Whenever there’s a planetary lineup, there’s someone around to proclaim it a harbinger of doom. They warn that the gravitational pull of the planets will cause storms or earthquakes, or something even worse, like flipping Earth over like a spinning soccer ball.

The cries of doom are even louder this year because of the idea that the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st, bringing the world to an end with it.

There’s not a bit of truth to any of it. The Mayan calendar won’t end, just reset. There’s no prophecy of doom. And planetary alignments are as common as predictions of doomsday. They have no effect on Earth at all. Their gravitational pull on our planet is just too tiny to matter.

So if you’re up and about before dawn the next few days, enjoy the lineup of the Moon and planets in the pre-dawn sky. It’s a sight to savor.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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