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Evening Treats

June 18, 2013

The evening sky offers up a couple of nice conjunctions tonight. One of them disappears quickly, but the other lingers awhile.

The early pairing is the planets Venus and Mercury. The two worlds are quite low in the west at sunset, and drop from view about the time it gets good and dark.

If you have a clear horizon, though, you should be able to pick them out because Venus is the brilliant “evening star.” It’s far brighter than any of the other planets or stars in the night sky, so it stands out. In fact, the main problem is that you might not realize that it’s a planet — Venus is often mistaken for the landing lights of a distant airplane.

Mercury is directly to the left of Venus, by about the width of your finger held at arm’s length. It’s only about one percent as bright as Venus, so it’s tough to see through the evening twilight. But its proximity to brighter Venus will help you pick it out — and binoculars wouldn’t hurt, either.

Over the next few nights, Mercury will vanish from sight as it drops back toward the Sun. But Venus will climb higher, putting on a better show each night.

The other grouping is the Moon, the star Spica, and the planet Saturn, which is in the south as night falls. Spica is quite close to the upper right of the Moon. Brighter Saturn is farther to the upper left of the Moon. The three bright objects remain close together as they wheel across the southwest over the next few hours.

More about the Moon and Saturn tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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