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Double Treat

March 7, 2012

The early evening sky is offering a double treat tonight -- the Moon and Mars in the east, and Venus and Jupiter in the west. Combined, the pairings present four of the five brightest objects in the night sky right now.

Venus and Jupiter are so bright that they pop into view within minutes of sunset -- well before the curtain of darkness descends. In fact, the addition of the twilight color will just make the view that much prettier.

Venus is the brighter of the two, with Jupiter to its upper left. Over the next few nights, the two planets will slide closer together, standing side by side on the evening of the 12th.

While Venus and Jupiter rule the west, Mars and the Moon rule the east.

The Moon is full tonight, so it shines brilliantly all night long. And Mars stands to its upper left, shining like a bright orange star. They arc high across the south during the night.

Mars currently is the fifth-brightest object in the night sky. It was at opposition just a few days ago, standing opposite the Sun in our sky. It’s closest and brightest at opposition, so it puts on quite a show. But as Mars moves farther away, it’ll fade quickly. By the time the Moon comes back around to Mars next month, the little planet will look only about half as bright as it does now.

Another prominent sight is close by -- Leo, the lion. His brightest star, Regulus, stands well above Mars and the Moon -- helping add to the beauty of the crowded evening sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012


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