Celestial Line Up

11/30, about 7am: We’re getting off the train in Toledo, and looking up at the swatch of sky between the train and the train station, we see a very bright star in the dawn twilight. I assume it’s Venus, given the brightness, but think it’s possible it’s Mercury given that the sun is literally just rising. We go into the station to get out of the cold while I check the sky view app on my phone. I locate the Sun, try to scan to the planet but the app’s overlay shows more than one planet clustered together in a near line… Oh? I promptly find that Mercury is on the other side of the Sun, and thus below the horizon, and apparently Saturn is in that area too. I pop outside and confirm the planet we saw is Venus. And to my surprise the app says Mars and Jupiter are nearby also. So I take the girls outside the front of the station and walk us too the side where there’s open space due to the parking lots.

There I see Venus – bright as ever, Mars – seemingly a standard star brightness except there are no stars visible in the ever brightening dawn, the Moon, and between Mars and the Moon I can make out a very faint Jupiter – disappearing into the light of the day. It’s a wonderful and pretty sight.

A few moments later, I realize the magnitude of what we’d just seen: The four brightest objects in the sky all lined up with another planet as a fifth object to boot. Just, Wow.

Turns out my realization was right, but my knowledge of which objects are the four brightest are wrong. In order, they are: Sun, Moon, Venus, and Jupiter – not Mars like I thought. Mars, turns out, waxes and wanes in it’s brightness intensity. Oh! And I forgot that the International Space Station is brighter than Venus when streaking across the sky. So I should say brightest natural objects!

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