Planet show stargazers delight, Jupiter and Venus brighten western sky
By Carole Carlson email@example.com March 21, 2012 5:10PM
Good to know
Merrillville’s Planetarium presents “the Voyager Encounters,” a space probe program exploring Venus and Jupiter.
Show times: (all at 7:30 p.m.) Friday, April 13, 20, 27, and Saturday, April 21, 28
Admission: $3 for adults and $2 for children.
To reserve: call 650-5486.
Updated: April 23, 2012 11:42AM
For a celestial version of “March Madness,” take a glimpse after sunset into the western sky.
Astronomers call it the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter.
Even though Venus and Jupiter are more than 450 million miles apart, they’re aligned in the same direction from Earth this month. Everyone on Earth can see these two planets by looking westward shortly after sunset.
Merrillville Community School Corp. Planetarium director Gregg Williams offered some tips for folks wanting to make the most of their stargazing.
Venus is the third brightest object in the sky, second only to the sun and the moon, said Williams.
“Watch for them in the western sky, they’re setting. Venus is following the sun,” he said. “Because they’re so bright, they’re easy to observe.” They’ll be visible by 8 p.m. or earlier.
Williams said the conjunction of the planets isn’t that rare, but this is one is especially spectacular.
Once you’ve soaked up Venus and Jupiter, turn to the eastern sky where the red planet Mars is sparkling. The bright star near Mars is Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo.
To the south, Williams said the constellation Orion is visible along with Sirius, also known as the dog star.
On Sunday and Monday, the cosmic show gets better as the crescent moon appears to form a triangle with Venus and Jupiter.
“This is kind of time we wish for clear weather,” said Williams. “In a few weeks, Venus begins to move away from Jupiter and move closer to the sun. It’s not going to last forever, people should enjoy it while they can.”
Reach reporter Carole Carlson at 648-3154.