Elongation of Inferior Planets

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The elongation of the planet is the angle between the planet and the sun with earth as the reference point. Find out about the elongation of inferior planets with help from an astrophysics professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Moons & Planets
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Eylene Pirez and I'm an Astrophysicist and this is the elongation of inferior planets. So, the elongation of the planet is the angle between the planet and the sun with earth as the reference point. So, let's say that earth is over here and here is the sun, and let's draw a straight line. And we're looking at Venus in this position, which is the maximum point that we can see it before it actually turns in its orbit and disappears completely. This is the maximum angle of elongation for Venus. And if we look at it from this side at this point, we will be, this will be right after sunset and this is the Eastern elongation side and this is the Western elongation side. So, if we look at it from here, this is going to be the greatest Eastern elongation and if we look it from over here, this angle would be the greatest Western elongation. And the difference between them is for Venus would be about 45 degrees to 48 degrees. And the reason this angle changes is because the orbits are elliptical, not perfectly circular, so it changes as you look at it move through its orbit. And then when we look at, let's say Mercury which is closer to the sun, let's say let's draw a straight line from Mercury to Earth, this is the angle of the greatest Eastern elongation and this angle over here is the greatest angle of Western elongation. And for Mercury, it deviates a lot, it's between 18 degrees and 28 degrees. And these are the only two inferior planets where we can actually measure the inferior elongation. My name is Eylene Pirez and I'm an Astrophysicist and this is the inferior planets elongations.

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