There’s a bright “you shouldn’t miss this” event occuring during the late February, 2012. The objects are so bright that casual sky watchers can view this grouping of planets and the moon without a telescope or binoculars. During the next few evenings, look for the moon, Venus, and Jupiter in the western sky, just after sunset. The chart above shows the western sky at about 6:45 p.m. in the Chicago area. Venus is the brightest starlike object in the evening sky. Jupiter, a little dimmer than Venus, stands (east) above and to the left (south) of Venus. Here are the events to watch:
- February 24: The waxing crescent moon appears below (west) and to the right (north) of Venus.
- February 25: In one day the moon moves so that it appears to the upper right of Venus. During these evenings the nighttime side of the moon is illuminated by sunlight reflected from our planet, as the image above shows. This gently illuminates the night portion of the moon in a similar effect to when a full moon illuminates the ground here. From the moon, the earth’s phase is just past full.
- February 26: The moon appears higher and to Jupiter’s lower right.
- February 27: Jupiter appears beneath the moon.
During the next few weeks watch Jupiter and Venus pass in the early evening sky. More in the March 2012 sky watching update that will be published here soon.