“The Sky This Week” appears every Tuesday. It is written by Ian Clarke, Director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College. The planetarium offers regular educational presentations about the stars and the skies; there’s something for early elementary through adults. Field trip requests are welcome. NOTE: field trip request form for 2022-23 is now live. The Spring 2023 schedule of free shows is available here. Images created with Stellarium.
The next clear evening we have, be sure to look west after sunset for a planetary conjunction. If you have already been watching the sky, you will have noticed two bright planets above the western horizon at dusk. Those are Jupiter and Venus, and the two have been growing closer over the past few weeks. On the evening of March 1, they will appear about a half degree away from each other. After that date, they will grow apart again, with Venus staying up later while Jupiter sinks toward the sunset. When planets pass close to each other in the sky, it’s called a conjunction, but it’s our point of view that makes them appear close. Venus is actually in the foreground at about 130 million miles from Earth, while Jupiter is in the background at 540 million miles.
Ian Clarke is the director of the Hatter Planetarium at Gettysburg College. In addition he has taught introductory astronomy labs and first-year writing there for over 30 years (not necessarily all at the same time). He was educated at Biglerville High School, the University of Virginia, and the University of Iowa. He lives in Gettysburg.