A Mid-March Planetary Conjunction

Robert Bigelow

Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the night sky, are moving toward each other. At least that appears to be the case from our perspective on Earth. In reality, the individual motions of all three plants around the Sun have placed them in almost a straight line so that Venus and Jupiter appear in nearly the same direction as seen from Earth.

Planet positions on March 12, 2012

 

At the beginning of March, these two dazzlingly bright worlds appear about 11 degrees apart in the western evening sky. That is about the width of a fist held at arm’s length. With each passing day, they will appear to move closer to each other until, on March 12 and 13, the duo will lie only three degrees apart. That is slightly more than a finger’s width held at arm’s length.

Looking west on March 12, 2012 at 8:30 p.m. MDT

 

 

After viewing this pair of bright planets, turn around, face east, and look for the planet Mars. It has a red/orange color and will appear as the brightest “star” low in the east, about halfway between Regulus and Denebola, the stars that mark the “heart” and “tail” of the constellation Leo, the Lion. Mars is at opposition on March 3.

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