Venus and Jupiter team up with the moon to provide late February/March cool show

This year, Jupiter and Venus, two of the three brightest objects in the night-sky will team up with the brightest, the moon, to provide an incredible show after sunset. If you look west at a clear sky just after dusk you should see them gradually get closer to one another over the next month or so. To further the fun, if you have binoculars you should be able to see the earthshine on the moon.

Earthshine is the sun’s light that hits the earth, and is then reflected to the moon, thus illuminating its dark side slightly. A bit like two mirrors reflecting each other. This phenomenon is only visible under certain conditions, like in the photo to the left.

Another really cool, and romantic sight if you swing that way, are going to be The Pleiades. A small cluster of stars, visible above Jupiter and Venus on March 8th. The Pleiades are quite spectacular and breathtaking when seen through binoculars for the first time, like tiny diamonds in the night.

Finally to add more punch to the coolness of March, in the northern hemisphere it should be possible to see the five brightest planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, just not all at once since Saturn rises later in the evening and by then both Mercury and Venus will have set. Still though, a fun evening can be had with our kids or spouses (or both, why not?), scoping the night sky with a good set of binoculars, 10x50s should be more than enough to see at least the four major moons of Jupiter, Venus as a crescent rather than a dot or disk, and if your eyesight is really good, Saturn’s rings as “ears”. Wide field binoculars are best.

That is if you can get your kids outside and away from Angry Birds.


Science and Tech

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