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Brightest planets line up in Earthlings’ sight

By Daily Bruin Staff

April 25, 2002 9:00 p.m.

The Associated Press The five brightest planets visible from
Earth will line up until May 15.

By Peijean Tsai
Daily Bruin Contributor

On a clear day you can see forever. As long as the sky stays
clear over the next two weeks, astronomy lovers will witness a
cosmic opportunity that will not reoccur until 2040.

Until May 15 sky watchers will find the five visible planets
““ Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter ““ clustered
together within 35 degrees of each other in the Western sky as they
make their orbits around the sun.

The rare sight will be visible above the horizon just after
sunset and can be viewed with the naked eye.

“We’ll all be dead and in the grave before the
planets line up like this again,” said Jay Farihi, a UCLA
graduate student studying physics and astronomy.

Students and visitors to the UCLA campus have been able to get a
closer look at the alignment with the help of telescopes atop the
Math Sciences Building.

The ninth floor houses five telescopes, each 24 inches in
diameter, that are used by members of the UCLA Undergraduate
Astronomy Society.

The UAS also hosts weekly planetarium shows on Wednesdays,
extending viewing opportunities to community members of all ages,
said Matthew Barczys, a UCLA graduate student who helps organize
UAS events.

Cloudy weather on Wednesday, however, prevented sky watchers
from seeing the alignment.

“The weather couldn’t get worse than this,”
said Farihi, expressing disappointment. “Hopefully next
Wednesday will be better.”

For Greg Walth, the UAS vice president and a third-year physics
student, looking at alignments captures both the entertaining and
educational aspects of astronomy.

“You look and you learn, and then you want to learn
more,” Walth said.

While some people fear that planetary alignments could have
dangerous effects in the universe, this planetary gathering has no
astronomical significance, said Margaret Kivelson, a UCLA professor
of earth and space sciences.

“It’s just an interesting coincidence, just a very
pretty sight in the sky,” said Kivelson.

This particular alignment is not too special for Barczys, who
has seen similar arrangements before. He looks forward, however, to
May 13 when all five visible planets and the moon can be seen after
sunset.

The same five planets grouped together in May 2000, but the
alignment was difficult to observe because of the position of the
sun which bleached out the sky, according to the Cranbrook
Institute of Science.

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