Utah Skies: Venus Passes Mars
This week after the sun sets and if you have a good view of the western evening sky you will see two planets, Venus and Mars, very close to one another. This type of event is called a conjunction. If you have a pair of binoculars or even a small telescope you will get a memorable view of these celestial objects.
Both Mars and Venus are traveling eastward in their orbits around the Sun. Since Venus orbits the Sun closer it will pass Mars, which is farther away from the Sun and moves slower. You can watch these two planets over the next few nights as they do their evening dance.
Venus is now the evening star, is much brighter at magnitude -3.9 and is 133 million miles from the Earth on the other side of the Sun. Although Mars appears only a few degrees from Venus, it lies much farther at over 200 million miles from Earth and is much fainter then Venus at magnitude 1.8. Both planets are now in the constellation Leo the Lion.
Tonight, July 13th, brilliant Venus lies just above fainter Mars.
On the evening of July 14th Venus moves slightly west and Mars shifts just to the lower right of Venus. Over the next few days, the faster moving Venus will move towards the star Regulus in the constellation Leo.
This evening the double planet show is an event for the whole family. The best time to start observing is around 9:30 or 10 pm when the sky is dark. Faint Mars should be visible at that time. The next opportunity to see a Venus-Mars conjunction will be in the early morning sky during February 2024.