Washington: Brilliant Venus and faint Mars will be paired remarkably close in the sky on February 20th and 21st, 2015.
On Feb 20th evening, the crescent Moon joins them in a tight bunch, a beautiful sight and on 21st Venus and Mars appear even closer together, with the crescent Moon now looking down on them from above.
When it comes to "eyeball astronomy," nothing is more satisfying than to see a pair of celestial objects appear close together in the sky, what astronomers call a conjunction.
Editor Fred Schaaf said that 2015 truly deserves to be called the "Year of the Conjunctions" as in January we watched Venus and Mercury come together in the evening twilight, and now comes a similarly close pairing of Venus and Mars.
On 21st the pair will appear 1/2 degree apart for viewers in North America, which is about the width of a pencil held at arm's length.
Venus and Mars have been edging closer together all month. Venus blazes in the southwest during late dusk; it's been climbing a little higher week by week. Mars, meanwhile, has lingered in roughly the same part of the twilight sky for several months, refusing to depart
Mars is only about 1 percent as bright as Venus just now and since the pairing on the 21st is so close, Schaaf cautions, little Mars might be hard to see in Venus's glare without optical aid, in other words, grab binoculars or a telescope to enhance your viewing experience.
Although these objects appear close together as you watch them in the deepening dusk, they're really not. Venus is 134 million miles from Earth right now, while Mars is 203 million miles away. The Moon is much, much closer: only about 225,000 miles distant.
The dance continues through the end of February, when Mars is still within 4 degrees of Venusand by then the order will have switched, with Mars lower down.