Friday, July 25, 2014
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A Good Month to Look to the Heavens

Venus, Jupiter and the moon will soon be together in the evening sky.

A Good Month to Look to the Heavens

If you're like me and you enjoy looking at the sky, you may have noticed two bright planets shining together in the evenings. The planets are Jupiter and Venus, and they will continue to move closer, putting on a good show for much of March, according to this piece from Sky and Telescope. The conjuction may not bring me good luck, but even in light-polluted Center City Philadelphia it should make a beautiful sight. The crescent moon will appear with the two bright planets on March 25.  

"By March 9th these dazzling evening "stars" are less than 5° apart, about the width of three fingers at arm's length. Then, from March 12th to 14th, the gap between them closes to just 3° as they pass one another in the evening sky. The pairing of these bright lights will be dramatic, though not especially rare.

Venus is the brighter one, for three reasons. First, it's close to the Sun, as planets go, basking in sunlight twice as bright as we receive on Earth and about 50 times more intense than the sunlight that reaches distant Jupiter. Second, it's almost seven times closer to Earth. And, its cloudy atmosphere is slightly whiter than Jupiter's, reflecting a little more of the sunlight that strikes it. These advantages combine to make Venus appear seven times brighter than Jupiter just now.

However, Jupiter is the far larger planet, and despite being 522 million miles away (versus 76 million for Venus) right now, it appears about twice as wide as Venus through a backyard telescope."

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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