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Venus to pair up with Mars

An interesting trio in the western sky, visible after sunset on February 21. Museum Victoria/Stellarium, CC BY-SA

Over the past few weeks, Venus and Mars have been drifting closer together in the evening sky and this weekend the two will meet low in the west. What’s more, on Saturday February 21, the thin crescent moon will join them, sitting just to the right of the two planets.

It’s no wonder that Venus is known as the evening star, for it shines so brightly during evening twilight. In fact, it might be a challenge to see Mars against the bright glare of Venus.

To give it a try, wherever you are in Australia, find a location that has a good view of the western horizon. The two planets will be visible for about an hour after sunset, and then they will follow the sun and disappear below the horizon.

The current location of the planets in the solar system. Museum Victoria/Solar System Scope

Venus and Mars may be the Earth’s closest neighbours but at the present time they are on the other side of the solar system. Venus is currently about 210 million km from Earth, while Mars is a distant 330 million km.

By next week, Mars will appear to pass below Venus and begin to drift towards the left (or southward). And while you are planet watching, be sure to spot Jupiter over in the eastern sky. It remains lovely and bright after reaching opposition earlier this month.

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