March 3, 2012 in City

Nights to brighten with five planets

By The Spokesman-Review

If the skies clear off at sunset on any of the next several days, sky watchers will be rewarded with an unusual planetary display.

Jupiter and Venus are high in the southwestern sky and easy to spot. Venus is the brightest planet of the pair. They are moving closer together each night and will be within 3.3 degrees of each other on March 15.

Currently, the moon is moving east from the pair each night.

Mercury is hovering above the western horizon in the late twilight, but will disappear in about a week. To find Mercury, follow a line created by the moon, Jupiter and Venus along the plane of the solar system to see yellowish Mercury in the fading light.

In addition, reddish Mars is rising just after sunset in the eastern sky, also on the same line as the other planets and the moon. All four planets are currently visible at the same time.

Mars will be 62.3 million miles from Earth today on Earth’s closest pass of Mars currently.

Saturn is rising during the evening as well and is located near the star Spica in Virgo.

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