WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #11-47 "Super Bright Jupiter and Venus Share the Sky with Three Cosmic Birds for Thanksgiving Week"
Air Dates November 21- November 27, 2011

Video currently not available

DEAN: Hey there stargazers.  I'm Dean Regas, Outreach Astronomer from the Cincinnati Observatory.

JAMES: And I'm James Albury, Director of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in Gainesville, Florida.

DEAN: And we're here to help you know what you're looking at when you go outside at night and

BOTH: Look up!

JAMES: Cosmically speaking, this Thanksgiving week is super because in addition to the usual Thanksgiving turkey on the table, we have our annual appearance of three cosmic birds in the sky, which you can see right after dinner all week long.

DEAN: Plus this year they are joined by the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter.

JAMES: O.K., we've got our skies set up for any clear night this Thanksgiving week, about 6:30 p.m. your local time facing west, where close to the horizon you'll see the brightest planet of them all, super bright Earth-sized Venus. Venus is on the other side of the solar system right now and is almost 50% farther than the Sun. Venus is always very bright because it reflects more of the Sun's light, almost two thirds, than any of the other planets. In comparison, the moon reflects only 7 percent of the light it gets from the Sun, while Jupiter reflects about half the light reaching it from the Sun.

DEAN: Then if you look higher above the horizon, you'll easily spot the three bright stars which mark the points of what is officially called the Summer Triangle, but which every November I unofficially call the Thanksgiving poultry triangle. You see historically these stars have always been associated with cosmic birds.

JAMES: The highest star is Deneb, the bright tail star of Cygnus the swan. So in addition to our Thanksgiving turkey, we have a heavenly swan to be thankful for.

DEAN: The bright star farthest to the left in the triangle, Altair, is the brightest star of another bird, Aquila the eagle. But the brightest of the three stars and the one closest to the northwest horizon is Vega, the brightest star of Lyra the harp, which, strange as it may sound, has had more feathery incarnations than the other two put together.

JAMES: You see Lyra was not always a harp. In fact, long ago before it became a lyre it was a cosmic turtle. But before it was a turtle it was a bird of one sort or other. Ancient records tell us that Lyra's association with birds goes back over two thousand years. In ancient India, Lyra was seen as a heavenly vulture. And in Babylon, as a great mythological storm bird named Urakkhga. Some desert peoples of ancient Arabia saw it as two birds, the desert eagle and would you believe a cosmic goose? Lyra was also once known as an osprey and a wood falcon. Anyone for a wood falcon or osprey drumstick?

DEAN: At any rate, only in the past couple hundred years or so have we in the west seen Lyra exclusively as a lyre. In fact, at the time of the American Revolution, these stars were still seen as a bird, an eagle but holding a lyre in its beak. But since then the eagle has flown away and only the lyre remains. So perhaps we should play lyre music after Thanksgiving dinner?

JAMES: So this Thanksgiving weekend after you've had turkey up to here, just step outside after dinner and look into the western sky for the brilliant planet Venus and some birds of a different feather. And thank the heavens above you'll never get them in your leftovers.

DEAN: But if three cosmic birds and super bright Venus aren't enough for you, then simply turn around and face east and high above the horizon you'll see brilliant Jupiter, the planet which is number 2 in brightness because even though it is much larger than Venus, it's also much, much farther than Venus - nearly three times farther from us.

JAMES: The light from Venus takes almost twelve and a half minutes to get here, while the light from Jupiter will take about 35 minutes. And if that seems too long to wait, well my wife's sweet potato pie takes longer than that to bake. Which will make this Thanksgiving week extra special.

BOTH: Keep looking up!


Episode #11-47 "Super Bright Jupiter and Venus Share the Sky with Three Cosmic Birds for Thanksgiving Week"
Air Dates November 21- November 27, 2011

Video currently not available

JAMES: In addition to the usual turkey every Thanksgiving, we have three cosmic birds

DEAN: Plus two brilliant planets, Venus and Jupiter.

JAMES: At 7 p.m., face west and you'll see dazzling Earth-sized Venus and above it the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle, which every Thanksgiving I call the poultry triangle because these three stars have historically been associated with birds; Cygnus the swan, Aquila the eagle and Lyra the harp.

DEAN:  Long ago Lyra had many feathery incarnations. In India, it was a cosmic vulture, in Babylon, a great storm bird, in Arabia, a desert eagle. Others have called it an osprey, a wood falcon, even a goose. And for dessert this Thanksgiving, look into the east and super bright Jupiter will dazzle you.

BOTH: Keep looking up!


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