Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Star Chart for March 2012

By Dave Reneke

Read about some special features in the night sky from February 23, and download the Sydney Observatory's star chart for March 2012.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Attention all budding sky watchers, grab your telescopes. What you’re about to read might give you an uncontrollable urge to dash outside. The brightest planets in the solar system are lining up in the evening sky, and you can see the formation, some of it at least from 23 February.

Go out at sunset and look west. Venus and Jupiter pop out of the twilight even before the sky fades completely black. The two brilliant planets surrounded by evening blue is a spellbinding sight. Hey, grab your smartphone, hold it steady and see what a pic looks like.

If you go out at the same time tomorrow, the view improves because Venus and Jupiter are converging. In mid February they are about 20 degrees apart. Astronomers measure angular separation of objects in degrees. There are 360 degrees in a circle. 20 degrees equals the width of two closed fists held at arms length.

By the end of the month, the angle narrows to only 10 degrees – so close that you can hide them together behind your outstretched palm. Their combined beauty grows each night as the distance between them shrinks.

Friday 24 February is a special night, and Saturday night too when the crescent Moon moves in to form a slender heavenly triangle with Venus, Jupiter and the Moon. One night later it happens again and this arrangement will be visible all around the world, from city and...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

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