¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week ending September 14, 2013
The moon and Venus will have another one of their famous close calls on the evening of September 8. This one is a little more special than most. Venus is just above the bright star Spica, although the planet is much brighter. Above the moon and Venus is Saturn. You can see this stunning sight as darkness sets in after sunset. Look in the west.
The moon is about 235,000 miles or 377,000 km away. It’s moving around the earth and rather quickly. So if you can’t see this arrangement Sunday night, you may try a view that’s not quite as good the next night. Two nights later, the moon will be much farther away. But while the moon is leaving the scene, you’ll see Venus and Saturn pulling closer together from night to night.
Around September 16th, Venus will be within 4° of Saturn. Venus has been on the right and below the ringed planet. But soon, the ringed planet will be to the right. If you can still see Spica, it will be below them.
You can see Venus and the moon next to each other just about every month. Sometimes their monthly conjunction happens too close to the sun to see, so you will occasionally miss one even with the most cooperative weather.
Venus and Saturn will pair up again in November 2014, however, that conjunction will be too close to the sun to try to see. The better one will be in January 2016 when the moon joins them in the morning sky next to Antares. They will rise quite some time before the sun, so you won’t have to worry about any of them being too dim to see in the brightening twilight.
If you want to see Venus, Saturn, the moon, and Spica together again, you have a long wait. But the wait will be worth it. Mercury, Jupiter, and Mars will be with them! It will be September 2040. While you’re watching the sky show of this week, try to imagine the glory of the one coming in 27 years.
The fact that not everyone reading this forum will be around to see the 2040 lineup does not escape this author. If you would like a sneak preview of that and other events far in the future, you should try one of the many free planetarium programs available for download on the Internet. The images posted with this article were made with a program called Stellarium.