Monday, November 14, 2005

Skywatcher Alert

A close encounter between Mars and the Moon -- July 17, 2003

The planet Mars, which rises out of the east at 4 :01 pm today will appear to be close to the moon tonight. One day short of full, the moon rises at 3:41 pm. Since sunset is at 4:39pm, it should be dark enough by 5:30pm or so to see this lovely show.

The Moon, of course, is much closer to us than Mars. Nevertheless the two objects can pair up in the sky because they travel along roughly the same plane in space. Along with Earth and its satellite, most of the planets orbit the Sun very close to this plane, also called the Ecliptic.

If you are star-gazing early this evening [and the sky remains as clear as it is right now] in addition to Mars you will not fail to see Venus in the southwestern part of the sky. It will set at 7:21pm. If you happen to stop at the north side of the Great Lawn in Central Park after sunset tonight, you'll have a chance to see both planets, Mars glowing yellowish-orange in the northeast, Venus brilliantly white in the southwestern sky. And the moon too.