A rare event – Venus and Mars snuggle at dusk today and tomorrow
Don’t miss the gorgeous evening tableau from July 12 to 14, 2021. The slim lunar crescent will guide your eye to the 2 close-knit planets, Venus and Mars. Published with permission EarthSky.org
This evening and tomorrow, the 12th and 13th, brilliant planet Venus and fainter planet Mars appear low in the west-northwestern sky about 45 minutes after sunset. At less than half a degree of separation on both evenings, such proximity of the two planets will not be seen again until 2034. In deepening twilight, a graceful crescent moon, suspended above the pair, expands the aura of the event.
At the beginning of the week, sunset is at 8:27pm; twilight gathers half an hour later. By 9:10pm, planet Venus – appropriately named The Evening (and Morning) Star, for surpassing the radiance of all true stars in Earth’s skies – catches the eye as a steady, solitary point of light below the moon, close above the west-northwest horizon. Diminutive Mars comes into view as the sky darkens: to the left of Venus on the 12th and below the Evening Star on the 13th. At first glance, the planets may seem indistinguishable on account of their very close approach and Mars’ lesser magnitude in the presence of Venus’ overpowering light. In a clear, dark sky, the conjunction is visible with the naked eye. Binoculars add interest to the experience.
Prepare to arrive at a location with an unobstructed view to the west-northwest horizon. At a horizon view, unobstructed by hills or buildings, Mars and Venus set within minutes of 10pm, which translates to around 9:30pm at most locations.
Sun with inner planets: Mercury the smallest, followed by Venus, slightly smaller than Earth.
Outer planet Mars, about half Earth’s size. Image fragment edited from NASA Lunar and Planetary Institute artwork.
Linger with the planets as they drift in tandem toward the skyline. Venus – the third brightest celestial object in Earth’s sky after the Sun and moon – shines with a large enough disc to observe while setting, like the Sun and moon. Even between buildings, observing the movement of Venus setting into the skyline is unforgettable.