Close Encounters in the Night Sky

Last night, Chicagoans were blessed with a clear sky and spring-like temperatures (just two days after light snow fell). This week is a great week for astronomical alignments. Here is a snapshot I took of Venus and Jupiter, looking west after sunset, about 7:00 pm Central time)

Venus and Jupiter on March 6, 2012.

Click on the photo (I bumped up the exposure in post-production) for a larger version, and compare with this image from a few weeks ago. As you can see, Venus is getting closer to Jupiter, and over the next few nights, it will move closer still. By Monday, they’ll be so close that you can easily cover them both up with a few fingers of your outstretched hand.

On the other side of the sky last night, the almost full moon was quite near Mars, which looks like a bright orange dot (compare the color of Mars to that of bright white Venus). Look to the east after sunset. Tonight, if the sky is clear, you can see the full moon just below Mars. At any rate, Mars will be in good view for the next few weeks. It’s basically directly opposite the sun from us right now, so you can see it all night long, rising in the east at sunset and setting in the west at sunrise.

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