UT Offers View Of Rare Planetary Alignment (230)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee is helping the public get a good look Friday at a once-in-a-century astronomical event.

 Paul Lewis, who directs astronomy outreach for UT-Knoxville’s Physics Department, said eight planets will line up this week in an unusual array that will not occur again for another hundred years.

 “If the skies are not too cloudy, people who look carefully and persistently can see an extraordinarily beautiful and rare grouping of the planets,” Lewis said. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

 Lewis said UT is hosting public viewing of the planets from 6-9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, weather permitting, from the roof of the Nielsen Physics Building. “First-come, first-served” free parking will be available on “the Hill,” he said.

 Those who want see the planets but can’t make it to campus should look to the west after sunset to find Venus, the brightest object in the sky, Lewis said. To the right and down is Mars, which is tiny, red and star-like.

 About 20 minutes after sunset, Lewis recommends using binoculars and looking to the left of where it sets to locate tiny Mercury.

Left of Venus and a bit higher in the sky is Jupiter, the brightest object to the south, Lewis said. Further left, high in the southeastern sky, is Saturn.

 Lewis said the moon can be seen at different points along the planets’ paths from Monday, Dec. 1, to Wednesday, Dec. 10.

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Contact: Paul Lewis (423-974-7815)