Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
The first “star” to pop out into the evening twilight is no star at all but the dazzling planet Venus. After sunset, look westward for the brightest point of light that you can find. That will be Venus, the most brilliant celestial body to bedeck the heavens after the sun and moon.
As dusk deepens into night, notice the visible pair of planets to the upper left of Venus: Mars and Saturn. Saturn is the brighter of the two, though they both pale next to Venus. If you live near the equator or in the southern hemisphere, look more directly above Venus for these two worlds.
This evening, Mars and Saturn cozy up closest together for all of 2010. In a few more days, on August 1, these planets will be at conjunction – directly north and south of one another. Two celestial bodies are not necessarily closest together at conjunction. In fact, Mars and Saturn will be a tiny bit farther apart on August 1 than they will be tonight.
Mars and Saturn appear close together on the sky’s dome but are nowhere close together in space. At present, Mars’ distance from Earth is twice that of the sun, and Saturn’s distance lies at more than ten times the sun’s distance from Earth.
Our chart shows the sky for about one hour after sunset. If you’re extremely lucky, you might spot Mercury low in the sky, right before the solar system’s innermost world follows the sun beneath the western horizon.
Written by Bruce McClurePrint This Post