Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seen at night: the Sun is brighter

Last night my son an I noticed that Venus, in the low western sky was unusually bright.  So was Jupiter which was right next to Venus last night.  Then we looked to the east and Mars just jumped out from among the stars in the background.  We contemplated what might cause this apparent increase in planetary brightness
  1. The air might have been particularly clear last night.  However, we did not think the background stars were equally brighter.
  2. There might be less light pollution than usual.  Perhaps the poor economy and an increase consciousness for energy conservation have caused people to turn off more outside lights.  But, again the background stars did not seem brighter.
  3. Perhaps because we recently discovered how delicious COSTCO carrots are and have been eating tons of them, our eyesight has improved (the carrot/eyesight myth).
  4. The three planets might be closer to Earth than usual, and thus we are seeing more intense reflected sunlight. (Mars was actually closer in October 2005)
  5. Perhaps something has changed in the atmospheric structures of these planets and they are now more reflective than usual.
  6. Perhaps the planets are tilted differently and thus more reflective.
  7. Perhaps the sun is burning a bit brighter, perhaps the sun goes in long cycles of tiny increases or decreases in output, and it happens to be on the increase.
That final option caused us to think of the very mild winter we have had this year.  Perhaps the global warming is a result of a sun cycle.
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