"A Cosmic Switcheroo!  The 8th and 9th Planets Change Places this Week!
And: Getting Ready for February 23rd's Super Duper Conjunction!"

Scheduled air date: 1999 Feb 08-14

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This week marks the return of Pluto to its normal rank as the Solar System's most-distant planet.  Because its orbit overlaps that of Neptune, for about twenty of the 248 Earth-years required for Pluto to make one orbit, it is actually closer to the Sun than is Neptune.
This illustration is from a perspective above the Sun, looking down on the orbits of the outer planets.  The dark portion of each orbit is that below the plane of the Ecliptic (defined by Earth's orbit).

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For the next two of weeks, Venus and Jupiter can be seen nearing each other in the evening sky.  They will be at their closest (about 1/8 degree, or one-quarter the diameter of a Full Moon!) on the night of February 23rd.
(Shown for mid-Northern latitudes at about half an hour after Sunset for days indicated.)

If you wish to view illustrations for other episodes, please see our Star Gazer Illustrated directory.

Illustrations on this page were created using TheSky Astronomy Software, an advanced desktop planetarium program designed for Windows.

Copyright 1999-2006 by Software Bisque, Inc.