Venus and Mars

Much of the heavenly action this week is in the morning sky. Friday morning look toward the eastern horizon starting at 5:45 a.m. Ever brilliant Venus sits 15 degrees above the horizon, and one-half degree above Venus is red Mars. Mars is not nearly as bright as Venus but should be easily visible. The pair will put on a beautiful show in binoculars or a small telescope.

Unfortunately, brilliant Venus is quite boring through a telescope. It does go through phases like the Moon. However, Venus is covered with such a thick atmosphere its surface markings are not visible, and it generally presents a featureless bright white cloud covered face. Mars does have interesting markings and cloud formations. It is too small and far away at the present time to see these very well, and it is low in the sky.

If you watch the pre-dawn sky for the next several days, you will see Venus and Mars drawing apart. This is mainly due to the fast movement of Venus, which is only exceeded in planetary motion by the very swift movement of Mercury in the sky from day to day.

Contact Tim Hunter skyspy@tucson.com or 573-4131.