If you have a clear Western horizon and no clouds one of the next couple of nights, take a look about 45 minutes to an hour after sunset.
(Photo by Steven Willett)
In Texas tonight, they had a more colorful sunset than we did, but up at the top center you’ll see two objects. The bright one at the bottom is Venus. Just above it, dimmer, is Saturn.
From Los Angeles’ west San Fernando Valley, there was a much more blase sunset, but the planets were no less bright, even on a cell phone.
With the good camera (Canon DSLR) and a telephoto lens you can start to see the bright white color of Venus, as well as the softer, more yellow color of Saturn. If you have a small telescope or even a decent pair of binoculars, the rings of Saturn can start to be seen.
These two have been getting closer for weeks. Venus is rising into the sunset sky, it’s apparent motion taking it away from the sun, while Saturn’s apparent motion will be taking it behind the sun from our viewpoint, so it’s sinking quickly into the evening twilight. In about two weeks it will be almost impossible to see, being too close to the sun to be seen after sunset.
Tomorrow night, just after sunset on the North American East Coast on Sunday, January 22nd, will be the closest they’ll appear to each other, both easily visible in a telescope or binocular field of view. But you’ll still see them near each other on Monday, or Tuesday, or the next several days. Just a little bit further apart every day.
But, like I remind you with all of these events, no matter what the mainstream media would like to tell you about, “***TONIGHT***, there’s this ***AMAZING*** THING going on!” it’s not just tonight. Or tomorrow. So if it’s cloudy this weekend for you, but nice on Monday or Tuesday, go look anyway. Be a rebel!
And while you’re out there and you’ve seen bright, white Venus and dimmer, yellow-ish Saturn on the Western horizon after sunset, look up, near the zenith.
That really bright object almost directly overhead? That’s Jupiter. And if you have binoculars or a telescope, the Galilean moons are easily visible.
If you stay up a little past sunset, out in the east where you see Orion (one of the easier constellations to find), look just to the west of Orion and you’ll see the Pleiades cluster (lovely!) and between it and Orion you’ll see a bright-ish red object. That’s Mars.
If you have a telescope that’s just a little bit bigger than a beginner’s model, about halfway between Mars and Jupiter you might see Uranus, a blue-green object. But you will need that telescope.
If you have a decent telescope, probably 8″ or bigger, look just to the west of Jupiter to find Neptune, which will be a deep blue color.
But remember, even if you don’t have a telescope or binoculars, even if all you have is your Standard Issue Mark I Eyeball, you can see Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and of course, that fourth planet that’s easily visible in this picture.
Earth. Third rock from the Sun. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
Enjoy your sightseeing!