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Apr 02 2012

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Planets Will Shine Extra Bright This Week


BY GINA COOK

ANCHOR ALLIE SPILLYARDS

If you’re looking for a good show this week — astronomers say just look to the sky. Five bright planets will be visible this month. Here’s a video from NBC of Jupiter and Venus in the night sky.

“Because Venus is closer it’s the brightest in the sky. NASA scientists say it’s one of the best views of two planets for years to come.”

Astronomers say these events can be seen with the naked-eye, but the planets are clearer with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope. A writer for the Mobile Press-Register describes the array of planets to keep a lookout for.

“Venus and Jupiter are prominent in the west, and Venus provides a fine binocular opportunity Monday and Tuesday evening when it is near the Pleiades cluster. Mars is bright and high in the southeast as darkness sets in, and Saturn rises about 8 p.m.”

And Space.com explains why Earth’s neighbor, Venus, is the star — well, planet — of the show.

“Venus continues to grow ever-brighter as the northern spring evenings warm up. The planet seems to gleam almost like a sequined showgirl, hovering in the west-northwest sky high above the setting sun.”

Mars is is coming out about an hour after sunset this month and will look like a peach-colored star to the naked eye. The Arizona Republic says it’s rare to see the Red Planet shine so prominently.

“Mars usually appears as a small, rather indistinct orange blob, sometimes sporting a tiny white icecap at one pole. It’s underwhelming, to say the least. But every so often there are moments of clarity when our atmosphere steadies and Mars seems to snap into focus, revealing delicate dark features across its face.”

And what about the ringed planet Saturn? Chances are good to see this planet because Earth is currently between Saturn and the Sun. Earth Sky explains.

“Every year, around the time we go between the sun and Saturn, the ringed planet is at its closest to Earth and brightest in our sky. Saturn is the faintest of the bright planets. It’s still pretty bright, but, normally, you wouldn’t pick it out from among the stars.”

Earth Sky adds that Mercury is also visible, but only in the Southern Hemisphere.

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