The Moon, Venus and Saturn

On January 20th, astronomers were alerted, we would have an unusually fine view of the Moon and Venus close together in the southern skies. You should be able to see many photos captured by amateurs and posted on sites such as Astronomy, for example the fine photo featured by Rick Stankiewicz in Ontario (Canada).

I and some non-astronomy friends happened to spot this in a restaurant parking lot after a great Italian dinner. We oohed and aahed. They deferred to me for the identification: “The Moon and Venus. Amateur astronomers have been waiting for this event. Look how bright Venus is!”

As We drove out of the lot, I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! And look, there’s Saturn, to the left … see it? That HAS to be Saturn!” The object was a slightly oversized point of light about two thirds the magnitude of Venus. It did not twinkle, but stared back steadily from its fixed point in the heavens. How exciting!

Shortly later, I was forced to announce:

“Saturn has developed a blinking tail-light … and now, red and green wingtip lights: it’s zooming toward us … we may never see Saturn like this again!”

Our driver had noticed this, he said, but hated to burst the bubble of the moment. The “Saturn incident” was so funny I forgot to be embarrassed!

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