Venus and Jupiter for March 2012

If the skies are clear this Wednesday be sure to look towards the west right after sunset. You will see two bright stars about 20 degrees or so above the horizon. Those are in fact not stars but Venus and Jupiter. They should be closest together in our night sky on the evening of March 14 and March 15, 2012. At that time you can block them out with two fingers held out at about arm's length.

These are relatively common events happening every thirteen months or so. So, if you end up missing it due to cloud cover don't panic. Given their bright apparent magnitude the two planets will be visible even from Boone's heavily light polluted skies.

The image below is a screen from a free open source program called Stellarium which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It shows the western sky at 20:30 (8:30 PM) on March 14 from Boone. If you find Venus and Jupiter (they'll be hard to miss) you should be able to easily find the Pleiades in Taurus and M42 in Orion. Although they'll be harder to spot if you live downtown.