The Washington Post

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon dance in night sky; five planets come into view

The crescent moon, Jupiter, and Venus shine brightly in the early night sky as their light is reflected off of a still pool at Great Falls National Park Sunday evening. ( Navin Sarma photography , @navinsarmaphoto)

Even after the moon exits the view, Jupiter and Venus will remain prominent in the night sky in the coming days, getting closer and closer together. They are currently about 10 degrees apart. NASA explains:

In March, Venus and Jupiter continue their relentless convergence until, on March 12th and 13th, the duo lie only three degrees apart—a spectacular double beacon in the sunset sky (sky map). Now you’ll be able to hide them together behind a pair of outstretched fingertips.

Meanwhile, EarthSky reports Mercury, Mars and Saturn are now viewable at night as well. It writes: Venus and Jupiter continue to pull closer, you’ll also be able to see three other planets in the evening sky – Mercury, Mars and Saturn. Mercury will be at its best around March 4. Mars, in particular, will be extremely spectacular to see – because Earth will fly between Mars and the sun on March 3, 2012. So Mars will be at its closest and brightest for this two-year period in early March!

As it turns out, all five of these planets may be viewable tonight, EarthSky says. It recommends trying to spot Mercury about 40 to 60 minutes after sunset near the western horizon whereas Mars should become viewable on the opposite horizon. Saturn should come into view in the east as Jupiter is setting to the west between 10 and 11 p.m.

NASA video overview of Venus and Jupiter convergence

Finally, for anyone who misses Jupiter, Venus and the Moon together this month, will get another chance towards the end of March when moon re-emerges. Specifically, EarthSky says, the moon will move past Jupiter and Venus on March 24 and 25.

Jupiter and Venus share the crescent moon’s spotlight over a violet dusk at Great Falls National Park Sunday. ( Navin Sarma photography, @navinsarmaphoto)

Here are a couple more photos of the Moon, Jupiter and Venus trio submitted to our Facebook and Twitter pages, respectively (allow a few seconds to load), from Saturday night...

Jason is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.


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