Venus and Mars, February 2015


As Jupiter gleams in the eastern evening sky as it has just passed opposition, brilliant Venus and Mars pass in the western evening sky during late February. The Venus-Mars pair is closest on February 21.

ven_mars_150215

During the next few evenings, as the sky darkens, look westward.  Venus is the brilliant “star” in the western sky.  It outshines all planets and stars in the sky.  Its intensity can be easily mistaken for distant airplane lights.  Dimmer Mars is to the upper left of Venus.  On the chart above on February 15, the pair is separated by about 3 degrees, that’s about 6 full moon diameters.

In astronomy we describe the separate between celestial object in the angular measurement of degrees, like those on a protractor.  The diameter of the full moon is nearly 0.5 degree.  Hold up your hand and extend your arm.  At arm’s length the finger nail on your pinky finger covers about the area of the full moon.

ven_mars_150218

A few nights later (February 18), Venus appears higher in the sky and closer to Venus.  On this evening, the pair is separated by about 1.5 degrees (3 full moon diameters).

ven_mars_150220

On February 20, a thin crescent moon joins the pair making a spectacular celestial sight.  In this evening, Mars is about 0.75 degrees above Venus with the Moon 1.5 degrees to the right of Venus.  (The moon is exaggerated in size in these images.)

ven_mars_150221

On the next evening, the pair is separated by less than one full moon diameter with the moon 13 degrees to the upper left of the planetary pair.  The two planets look near each other from the view of our home planet. although they are about 75 million miles apart, over 300 times the earth-moon distance.

ven_mars_150225

A few nights later (February 25), Venus is nearly 2 degrees to the upper left of Mars.

ven_mars_150228

By month’s end, Venus continues to climb higher in the sky, about 3 degrees to the upper left of Mars on February 28.  Mars slowly disappears into the sun’s glare as it heads toward conjunction with the sun in mid-June.  Venus continues to climb higher into the sky during the spring.  Later in the summer, Venus leaves the evening sky and reappears in the eastern morning sky.  The pair appears each other in early September, although they are separated by about 9 degrees.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: