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Delhi misses celestial event

Haze and dusty skies made Delhi miss the conjunction of Mars and Saturn after sunset, writes Satyen Mohapatra.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 10:57 IST

Delhi missed out on the much-hyped celestial occasion — the conjunction of Mars and Saturn. Had it not been for the haze and dusty skies, you would have seen — immediately after sunset — two bright objects very close to each other, Saturn and Mars.

Nehru Planetarium director N. Rathnasree confirmed there were no sightings in the city.

Conjunction is a term used in astronomy to mean that as seen from a third place like the earth, two celestial bodies appear close to each other in the sky. Though the actual distance between them would be millions of kilometers - in this case, roughly 800 million kilometers, she said.

About every two years, both Mars and Saturn are generally seen close to each other. This time both the planets as seen from the earth were going to be just half a degree apart in the sky.

Last time it was in 1994 that they had been little less than half a degree apart, Rathnasree added.

All planets move around the sun in an elliptical orbit. From the earth, these objects of the solar system appear in the belt, known as the Zodiac. Sometimes they appear closer and sometimes opposite each other depending on their different speeds, she said. There is no relevance of this event to any astrological predictions, she added.

Meanwhile, PTI reports from Kolkata said there was some panic among the people, who feared some harmful affect of the conjunction.

Allaying public fears over any adverse impact on the earth due to Saturn and Mars coming close to each other, astrophysicists said the celestial phenomenon was not a cause for worry.

Panic phone calls to the M P Birla Planetarium since Saturday evening prompted its officials to go on a myth-busting drive on Sunday, as planetary scientists and astrophysicists made public appearances to rubbish claims by astrologers that the cosmic event could have an impact on people and the environment.

"Saturn and Mars are so far away from the earth that their coming close will have absolutely no effect on the orbit or environment of the earth," explained Debi Prosad Duari, a senior scientist at the planetarium.

Saturn and Mars appear to be close to one another every two years and 20 days and the phenomenon could not be described as "very rare", he said.

"They are actually not close but simply appear to be close since they revolve on the same plane. Around this time every two years, they look as if they are very close to each other on the western horizon," he said.

Duari said the event was slightly exciting for amateur astronomers this year since the apparent distance between the two planets was around 0.56 degree or, in layman's language, about the diameter of the moon.