Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
Tonight’s chart portrays the western sky for about 30 minutes after sunset at middle latitudes in North America. The waxing crescent moon should be fairly easy to spot tonight, because it sets almost 3 hours after the sun.
It’s a different story for the planets Venus and Jupiter, which are in conjunction today. Although Venus is the third brightest celestial object in the sky and Jupiter ranks the 4th brightest, this planetary pair will be hard to catch tonight, for they set about 40 minutes after the sun. This will be the last conjunction between these two worlds until May 11, 2011.
You will need a crystal-clear sky and level horizon to see Venus and Jupiter. As seen from mid-northern latitudes, these planets will be sitting on a level horizon about 1/2 hour after sunset. Look for Venus and Jupiter almost directly below the moon. Binoculars will help you to fish these planets out of the twilight glare.
Venus and Jupiter are not really next to each other. They only appear that way, because they reside along the same line of sight. This evening, Venus is about 14 light-minutes from Earth. In contrast, Jupiter lies about 3.5 times farther out than Venus, at nearly 50 light-minutes away.
Tonight for binoculars:
As seen from the Americas, the asteroid Vesta will be flying in between the constellation Leo the Lion’s stars Algieba (Gamma Leonis) and 40 Leonis during the next few nights. Look ahead to our February 17 show for a sky chart and more information.
Written by Bruce McClure
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