PARI: Venus and Mars pass in the evening skies

From a Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute astro advisory:

Venus and Mars pass in the evening skies

Rosman, NC (January 28, 2015) – Astronomers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute have been watching the red planet Mars since last summer as it zips eastward in front of the constellations of the zodiac.  Because of the earth’s motion around the sun, the red planet has appeared during that time in nearly the same spot in the southwestern evening skies.  And, although it is slowly getting lower each evening, it is still there and will be until late May or early June.

In the meantime, the beautiful planet Venus has emerged from behind the sun into the evening twilight and is getting higher each night.  It is also moving eastward along the zodiac but, since it is closer to the sun than Mars, it moves more quickly and will soon catch up with the red planet.  On the evening of Saturday, February 21, we will see these two planets close together, separated by about the diameter of the moon, which, incidentally, will be seen in its waxing crescent phase just above the pair of planets.

On the previous evening, Friday, February 20, we will see the moon, Venus and Mars clustered closely together low in the southwestern twilight.  And on both evenings, turn around and look to the east.  That bright “star” over there is the giant planet Jupiter.  To its right in the early evening southeast is the Dog Star, Sirius.  Sirius now lies below Orion the hunter with the belt of this giant pointing eastward to the Dog Star.

The moon, of course, is the brightest object in the nighttime sky.  Venus is the brightest planet and Jupiter the second brightest.  Both of these are brighter than any star at night of which Sirius is the brightest.  So, besides the so-called conjunction of Venus and Mars on the 21st, here are a couple of opportunities to see the brightest object, the brightest planet and the brightest star all at one time.  Take the kids or grandkids out to a location with a clear horizon for a great view of this celestial show.

Happy Observing!

About Michael McDonald
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