After sunset we have another astronomical treat in store. The crescent Moon will be just to the left of Venus tonight and below those will be Jupiter – and as an extra special treat The Pleiades will be right above them all. The Pleiades is also known as “the Seven Sisters” – and it’s often confused with “the Little Dipper”. That’s because it does look a lot like people expect the little dipper would – but that is a much bigger object and hangs out in a completely different part of the sky (in the North).
So… there are a couple of really neat things to look up at tonight. The first is that very bright passing of the ISS at 6:17pm for anyone in Southern California. Then – just locate the Moon and the very bright “Star” near it is in fact the largest planet in the solar system – JUPITER.
Just get out and take a look – why don’t ya!!
You’ve probably already noticed that bright “star” low in the west just after sunset. Then the other bright “star” that has been slowly getting higher in the east over the past few months. Of course they are Venus (in the West) and Jupiter (high up in the ESE).
Other than any bright plane (or the Space Station) these will be the brightest things in the sky for a while. Cool thing is by taking a look at these every night (all right.. every couple of nights if you aren’t as crazy about this as I am) you can get a front row seat on what it is actually like to be on a spinning body (the Earth) that is making it’s way around the sun.. while these other planets are doing the same thing. By noticing their movements over the weeks ahead you can get real personal understanding of just what is going on with all these planets.
I’ve created a simple animation video that shows you these planets as they do their orbiting thing over the next month.
The video shows the position of these two planets at 6pm each night for the next month. Notice how Venus is getting higher in the west as Jupiter is heading closer to it. By March they will be REAL close.
note: above animation created using the totally free and awesome planetarium application “Stellarium” (http://www.stellarium.org) – for MAC / Windows / Linux