Friday, June 4, 2010

Planet Triple Play: Saturn, Mars and Venus Appear Together

If you live in the northern hemisphere, go out any night this week an hour or so after sunset and look at the western sky to catch a planetary triple play starring Venus, Saturn and Mars.

The first thing skywatchers will see — weather permitting — is the brilliant planet Venus, slightly north of west, in the constellation Gemini. Look for Gemini's twin first magnitude stars, Pollux and Castor, just above Venus.

As the sky gets darker, the planet Mars can be spotted to Venus' left as it appears in the constellation Leo very close to the bright, first magnitude star Regulus. Further still to the left will be Saturn shining in the western part of the constellation Virgo.

This sky map shows how to spot all three planets as they appear across a 71-degree angle in the night sky. For comparison, your closed fist held at arm's length covers about 5 degrees of arc in the sky.

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