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Tue, 10 Jan 2017

Venus and Mars draw closer

The UK evening sky on 1 January 2017 at about 6.30 pm

If you are into astronomy everyone will be asking you 'What's that bright star in the evening sky?' You probably know the answer already – it's Venus. She's approaching Earth right now, and will be a feature of the south-western sky after sunset for a couple of months. But as seen in the sky, Venus is also approaching Mars, which you can see to the upper left of Venus as a fainter and noticeably reddish object.

This is actually a line-of-sight effect, because Mars is actually moving away from Earth and is much more distant. But the two planets will appear to get closer together during January, and will make a striking pair. They will be at their closest in early February. After that, Venus will start to fall back into the twilight, and by mid March will be lost from view while Mars soldiers on for another couple of months. 

So what about the comet marked on the map at the top? Don't expect it to dazzle you! It is quite faint compared with the planets, though as comets go it's comparatively bright, at about 7th magnitude. Our Comet Section Director gives full information about it, and where to find it, on our Facebook page, so head over there and start hunting!


Added by: Robin Scagell