The Movement Of Mercury And Venus

The Movement Of Mercury And Venus

The movement of the planets is something that has been studied for thousands of years; the Aztecs, Greeks and modern astronomers have all studied the planets to have a better understanding of the solar system. A large part of understanding the movement of the planets, is understanding how their orbit differs from our own planet. Closer planets orbit around the sun in significantly less time than Earth, while others take exponentially longer. As a result, the ability to see these planets from Earth is often affected. In the case of Mercury and Venus, this is especially true.

Mercury and Venus are known as inferior planets. This title comes from the fact that these planets are closer to the sun than the Earth, but it also comes with some unique features. Unlike the other planets in the solar system, Mercury and Venus have the capability to pass directly between the Earth and the sun. As a result, in rare cases, it is possible to see tiny dark spots pass across the sun. Superior planets, which refer to the remaining planets behind the Earth, do not share this capability.

Mercury and Venus also share a feature that is more widely known for our moon; both of these planets cycle through phases similar to the moon. As Mercury and Venus follow through their orbits, they pass through a variety of points that effect how they are seen from Earth. Each position for inferior planets is determined in relationship to the sun. These phases correspond with four positions known as the aspects of the inferior planet. These phases include: Inferior conjunction, which refers to the position where the planets cannot be seen because the dark side of the planet is facing Earth; a crescent moon-like phase that involves the inferior planet being seen in the west of the morning sky; a quarter-moon phase when the planet is at its greatest angular separation from the sun; and a full moon phase as the planet recedes from Earth. Superior planets do not appear in phases to observers because, unlike inferior planets, the dark side of superior planets are almost never faced towards Earth.

Understanding the movement of inferior planets has allowed scientists to understand Mercury�s and Venus� various phases that have been witnessed from the time of the earliest astronomers. On a less scientific level, understanding the planets can allow one to understand what they are looking at in the night sky. While looking at a clear night sky, it is possible for the trained eye to spot various planets as bright, star-like flickers, but for the path of inferior planets such as Mercury and Venus, this becomes more difficult. A common mistake is looking for an inferior planet while it is in low visibility phase, such as inferior conjunction, but knowing the four positions of inferior planets can allow one to predict the position of Mercury and Venus. Whether you are an everyday stargazer trying to alleviate the stress of searching tirelessly for planets in the sky or trying to predict the next time Venus or Mars passed the sun, it is necessary to understand the movement of the these planets.

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