As Jupiter gleams in the eastern evening sky as it has just passed opposition, brilliant Venus and Mars pass in the western evening sky during late February. The Venus-Mars pair is closest on February 21.
During the next few evenings, as the sky darkens, look westward. Venus is the brilliant “star” in the western sky. It outshines all planets and stars in the sky. Its intensity can be easily mistaken for distant airplane lights. Dimmer Mars is to the upper left of Venus. On the chart above on February 15, the pair is separated by about 3 degrees, that’s about 6 full moon diameters.
In astronomy we describe the separate between celestial object in the angular measurement of degrees, like those on a protractor. The diameter of the full moon is nearly 0.5 degree. Hold up your hand and extend your arm. At arm’s length the finger nail on your pinky finger covers about the area of the full moon.
A few nights later (February 18), Venus appears higher in the sky and closer to Venus. On this evening, the pair is separated by about 1.5 degrees (3 full moon diameters).
On February 20, a thin crescent moon joins the pair making a spectacular celestial sight. In this evening, Mars is about 0.75 degrees above Venus with the Moon 1.5 degrees to the right of Venus. (The moon is exaggerated in size in these images.)
On the next evening, the pair is separated by less than one full moon diameter with the moon 13 degrees to the upper left of the planetary pair. The two planets look near each other from the view of our home planet. although they are about 75 million miles apart, over 300 times the earth-moon distance.
A few nights later (February 25), Venus is nearly 2 degrees to the upper left of Mars.
By month’s end, Venus continues to climb higher in the sky, about 3 degrees to the upper left of Mars on February 28. Mars slowly disappears into the sun’s glare as it heads toward conjunction with the sun in mid-June. Venus continues to climb higher into the sky during the spring. Later in the summer, Venus leaves the evening sky and reappears in the eastern morning sky. The pair appears each other in early September, although they are separated by about 9 degrees.