Thanks to Hollywood, you know the plot well. The planets align in some particular order and the world as we know it ends. Or the world is destroyed by the “big scary bad guy.” Or time, space, and reality twist and warp into something weird. The point is, it never ends well for humanity. So why aren’t we all dead?
The simplest answer is that conjunctions and alignments don’t actual foretell doomsday, though the doomsdaysayers and Hollywood would have you believe otherwise. Conjunctions and alignments instead are more like the passing of ships in the night on the ocean, and they’re engaged in some synchronized boating.
A conjunction, by astronomical definition, is the alignment of two bodies in the solar system in such a way that they have the same longitude when we’re looking at them from Earth. That means that they look really, really close together on the Zodiac, or the ecliptic. When celestial bodies get really close together, other cool things can happen. Remember the Mercury Transit not too long ago? Earth, the Sun, and Mercury all had to be really close together, and in fact, in nearly perfect alignment, for that astronomical event to occur. And in that instance, we were seeing an inferior conjunction. So what happens when we see a superior conjunction or a perfect planetary alignment? The end of the world? A green moon?
Find out at Night Vision: Conjunctions and Alignments.
Night Vision: Conjunctions and Alignments is presented by Amy Oliver on Thursday, August 25th and Saturday, August 27th, in the Hansen Dome Theater at 6:45pm. Tickets available online or at the Clark Planetarium ticket desk. Free for members and $2 for everyone else.