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Venus and Companions
The planet Venus is pushing a little higher into the sky each night. It’s the brilliant “evening star,” low in the west-northwest at sunset. It’s so bright that it’s easily visible even through the twilight, although you do need a clear horizon to spot it.
Skywatchers south of about Dallas or Little Rock should also be able to make out a couple of objects near Venus — especially with binoculars. The view will be more challenging north of that line because the array sets at a shallower angle, so it’s more obscured by the glow of twilight.
One of the companions is Messier 44, the Beehive star cluster. It will appear just to the left of Venus tonight, and just below it tomorrow night. Binoculars will reveal quite a few of the cluster’s individual stars.
The other companion is the planet Mars. It’s to the upper left of Venus. Tonight, it’s about six degrees away — roughly the width of three fingers held at arm’s length.
Mars looks like a humble star, with a slightly orange color. It’s dropping toward the Sun now, so it’ll disappear from view by early August for the entire country. Venus will pass by it at the end of next week, making its fainter sibling a little easier to pick out.
Venus is climbing away from the Sun. It will stand a little higher in the sky each evening over the next few months, and remain in view a little longer. It’ll hang around in the evening sky for the rest of the year.
Script by Damond Benningfield