Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Moon And Planets Gather Round

by NASA Science News
Huntsville - Mar 22, 2004
Every few years or so, something wonderful happens: all five naked-eye planets appear in the evening sky at the same time. You can walk outside after dinner, and without any kind of telescope, see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter.

Now is one of those times.

The show begins on March 22nd at sundown. Find a place where you can see the western horizon, and before the sky fades completely black, start looking for Mercury. It's that bright "star" shining through the rosy glow of the setting Sun. Can't find it? Use the Moon as a guide: On March 22nd Mercury will lie directly below the crescent Moon. Simple!

From Mercury, trace an imaginary line straight up. In order you'll see brilliant Venus, dimmer red Mars, and yellow Saturn. Behind your back hovers Jupiter, brighter than all the others except Venus.

Venus is, in fact, absurdly bright. It will be the first thing you notice when you go outside. Many people mistake glaring Venus for a UFO or a landing airplane, but if you watch for a few moments, you'll see it doesn't move or blink like a UFO or airplane. It really is a planet.

Venus is so bright that it can be seen in broad daylight--if you know where and when to look. March 24th is a good time to try, because the crescent Moon and Venus will be side by side. During the day, try scanning around the Moon using a pair of binoculars. When you find Venus it will seem to pop out of the blue--a pleasant surprise.

Be very careful, though, not to turn your binoculars toward the Sun. Sunlight focused through optics can fry your eyes.

Looking west just after sunset on March 24, 2004, as viewed from mid-northern latitudes. More sky maps: March 22, March 24, March 25, March 28, March 29, and April 2, 2004.

After sunset on March 24th, look west again. Mercury will be a little higher than it was on March 22nd, and thus easier to find. Trace the same imaginary line upward past Venus and the Moon (a dazzling pair), Mars, Saturn, and behind your back, Jupiter.

By now you've noticed that Mars is not so easy to find. Shining like a 2nd magnitude star, it is the dimmest of the five planets. On March 25th, however, you won't be able to miss Mars because it's going to be right beside the Moon. The pair will be even closer together than the Moon and Venus were the night before.

The show continues on March 28th when the quarter Moon glides by Saturn, on March 29th when Mercury reaches its highest point in the evening sky, and April 2nd when the full Moon passes Jupiter. On any of these nights, try looking at the planets through a telescope. Even a small 'scope will reveal Saturn's rings, Jupiter's cloud belts and its largest moons, and the phases of Venus.

By the end of March, Mercury will be sinking back into the glare of the Sun, and soon thereafter the evening planet count will drop from five to four. Four is still a lot of planets. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus are going to be visible for months. In fact, they will gather even closer together in late April and May, and put on another wonderful show. But that's a story for another day.

Meanwhile, enjoy the five while they're there, so easy to see in the evening sky. It won't happen again until 2008.

Related Links
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

A Close Encounter With Jupiter
Huntsville - Mar 04, 2004
Lately Earth and Jupiter have been approaching one another, and this week the two worlds are only 400 million miles apart. That's what astronomers call "a close encounter."

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.