Inner Planets Party

Approximate positions of the Inner Planets from the Sun (light) with Jupiter hanging out to the right

Approximate positions of the Inner Planets from the Sun (light) on March 20, 2014, with Jupiter hanging out in the lower right corner

303°  Our Solar System is throwing a party and we’re all invited. All the inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are gathering on one side of the Sun. This is not that rare of an occurrence, but it will be another four years until the Inner Planets are in this type of grouping. Mars is close to ‘opposition,’ meaning it is directly on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth. As the Sun sets, Mars will be rising in the East.

Silver clouds with a white lining

Silver clouds with a white lining

99°  This was the best shot of the day with lenticular clouds to the East of Reno as the Sun was setting.

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Winter Clouds Don’t ‘Hold In’ the Heat

Earth's solar-powered heat blanket

Earth’s solar-powered heat blanket

267°  Most of us know that in Winter, when it’s cloudy at night, the clouds ‘hold in’ the heat, so it doesn’t get as cold. This concept of ‘holding in the heat has been preached by weather people for years.

It’s not exactly accurate.

A neighbor is finishing up his doctorate program this Fall. His work is measuring the heat (specifically, infrared radiation) absorbed by the atmosphere then re-radiated back to Earth. Nitrogen and oxygen consist of 99% of the atmosphere and they don’t absorb infrared radiation. Only carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor absorb heat. 

This means the clouds absorb the radiation and emit it back to Earth. So when a cloud is passing overhead it is acting like a solar powered heater. You could call it a ‘blanket’ but it is a solar-powered electric blanket that isn’t holding in the heat but is generating it.