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Oregon and Coast Astronomy: Planetary Conjunction, Eclipse Weather

Published 01/15/2019 at 6:23 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon and Coast Astronomy: Planetary Conjunction, Eclipse Weather

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(Oregon Coast) – A major eclipse of the moon and two planets hanging out close together: that’s what it is in store for the Oregon coast and places like Portland, Salem, Eugene, Mt. Angel, Creswell or Corvallis this month. But whether or not we’ll see it is – well, if you’ll excuse the pun – up in the air. Weather may not cooperate. (Above: a planetary convergence in Seaside).

In the early evening hours of January 20, a total lunar eclipse will happen, but cloud cover will likely block the best of the astronomical show. (See Full Lunar Eclipse To Make Moon Orange for Portland, Oregon Coast, Inland ). Something else occurs two days later, however.

If you’re gazing into the morning skies in the wee hours of the night, you may notice some especially bright stars just before dawn.

Jim Todd, space science educator with Portland’s OMSI, said you’re looking at a rather spectacular convergence of Venus and Jupiter right now.

“These are the two brightest celestial objects visible in the night sky other than the full moon,” Todd said. “This will be the first of two conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in 2019.”

A conjunction is an apparent meeting or passing of two or more bodies in space.

Brightest of the two is Venus – second from the sun. It shines at a magnitude of -4.47 at 65 million miles from earth, Todd said. Jupiter, the fifth planet in our solar system, is magnitude of -1.81 at 563 million miles from earth.

Graphic credit: OMSI

The earth’s moon (waning crescent), with magnitude of -9 at 246,895 miles from earth, will join the pair at the end of the month,” Todd said. “In line of view from earth, they will appear as conjunction.”

What you’ll see from the Oregon coast or other parts of the Pacific Northwest is Jupiter climbing upwards, away from the sunrise; while Venus sinks downward, toward the sun.

There are two such conjunctions in 2019 – this year gives us a double dose. The first one happens January 22, only two days after that gnarly total lunar eclipse. Venus and Jupiter will be less than 3 degrees apart.

Really, it’s three, because on January 31 the moon joins the show.

“The waning crescent moon and Venus will be within less than 1 degree,” Todd said. “Easily viewed from lighted cities and no special equipment are needed. Perfect photo and educational moment opportunities.”

Another conjunction between Venus and Jupiter will occur late this year on November 24, showing them only at 1.25 degrees apart.

The really big show is the eclipse, starting around 7:33 p.m. The full moon gets darkened for 62 minutes, resulting in a weird reddish glow that comes from sunlight seeping through one side of the Earth and its atmosphere. Essentially, the light of sunset and sunrise will be painting our moon.

Right now, forecasts on the Oregon coast are showing cloudy to mostly cloudy on Sunday night, which means there’s a decent chance to catch at least some of the show. Things look a little worse that night for the inland portion of the state. Your chances may better on the beaches. Full Oregon Coast Weather.

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