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Two bright trios dazzle in the evening sky tonight. One disappears fairly quickly, but the other remains in view for most of the night.
The group that sets first is in the west as darkness falls: the planets Venus and Jupiter and the star Regulus.
Venus and Jupiter are the brightest objects in the night sky other than the Moon, so you can’t miss them — especially for the next few nights, because they stand almost atop each other. Right now, the difference in their brightness is greater than average. Venus is just about as bright as it gets, while Jupiter is near its faintest, so Venus shines about 13 times brighter than Jupiter.
Regulus pales compared to these two, but it does a nice job of rounding out the trio. It’s to the upper left of Venus and Jupiter, at the heart of Leo.
The other trio is in the south-southeast: the Moon, the planet Saturn, and the star Antares. Saturn looks like a bright golden star to the upper right of the Moon, with orange Antares a little closer to the lower right.
Saturn is near its brightest for the year as well. Like Venus and Jupiter, its brightness varies because it’s orbiting the Sun. As a result, its distance from Earth changes over the months as Earth and Saturn follow their separate paths. Earth and Saturn were at their closest last month, so Saturn was brightest then. It’s starting to fade a bit, but it’s still an impressive sight — shining brightly until it sets in the wee hours of the morning.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015