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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mars and Saturn align

Last night (14th August) was another great opportunity for planet watching, as Mars and Saturn lined up in the early evening with Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.
Just as I arrived home, after a late event at Science Centre, I saw them peeking through a gap in the clouds. I only had a couple of minutes to snap a few shots before thick clouds covered them again.

From left to right: Spica (star of Virgo), Mars, Saturn - as seen from Singapore on 14th August 2012 9pm

Over the course of the next month, all three objects will gradually get lower before finally disappearing below the horizon as Earth moves further and further away towards the other side of the Sun.

As this happens, Mars will also move westward (upwards) away from Saturn and Spica.
Diagram illustrating the position of Mars, Saturn and Spica as seen from Singapore and other equatorial regions during August 2012
This alignment was due to how Earth, Mars and Saturn move around the Sun.
As seen from Earth, Mars and Saturn are currently directly in front of the more distant stars of Virgo. Earth and Mars orbit the Sun much faster than Saturn, which results in Mars appearing to move closer to Saturn before overtaking and finally moving away from the ringed planet. 

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