Even though the weather has been insanely cold in Canada the past few weeks, there is an upside for astronomers. Call me a perpetual optimist, but when it’s colder in Canada than it is on Mars, you have to find some kind of silver lining.
The upside is that colder weather and clear skies are sometimes synonymous. I’m not a meteorologist so I don’t have any reason to go into detail as to why, but we have had a lot of cold, clear evenings. I’ve had a chance to go outside and test my new DSLR camera, at least for a short while, and I’ve also noticed a lovely trend in the Western sky shortly after sunset.
What you can see in the above picture is the Moon (duh) in a waxing crescent, just a few days past the new Moon. To its left are the planets Venus and Mars, Venus being the brighter of the two. Both planets are currently on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, but the clouds of Venus are much better at reflecting sunlight, making it the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon. Venus is also closer to us than Mars, so it has that going for it.
Sadly the conjunction has already happened, and since all three of these objects move against the background of stars, their relative positions will change night after night, especially for the Moon, which orbits the Earth in a brief 29.5 days.
Venus and Mars will shift around too, but they will spend a little bit more time together in the evening sky. Also, Venus will be easily visible for weeks to come as it is slowly moving higher up in the sky from our point of view. So get outside during the clear nights, especially if you are lucky to live in a warm climate.