First posted on 03-16-2012
If you’ve scanned the heavens at night this month, you probably couldn’t help notice a very bright “star” in the western sky. That’s actually sunlight reflecting off the clouds that surround our planetary neighbor, Venus. It’s proximity to Earth makes Venus glow brilliantly in the night sky. The other bright object that appears close to and just to the left of Venus is Jupiter.
Through a telescope, Venus often appears like a half-moon, although no craters are apparent. That’s because the planet is always shrouded in a thick layer of clouds that are made up mostly of sulfuric acid. A very inhospitable place. Several of Jupiter’s moons appear in a straight line, and are visible with a telescope or a powerful pair of binoculars.
Across from Venus and Jupiter, in the eastern sky, Mars makes an appearance and remains in the sky most of the night. A slight red tint gives the planet away. Mercury may still be visible early in the evening, near sunset in the low western sky. Saturn is low in the eastern sky, but doesn’t shine with much brilliance this month, making it difficult to locate. A strong telescope should reveal Saturn’s rings.
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