Jupiter, Mercury to pair up in twilight from March 13-16

March 10th, 2011 - 4:21 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 10 (ANI): Jupiter and Mercury will shine close together low in the western twilight from Sunday to Wednesday, March 13 to 16.

Jupiter is the brighter of the two.

“Mercury is pretty hard to see most of the time, so a lot of people have never spotted it in their lives,” says Alan MacRobert, a senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine. “With Jupiter guiding the way, now’s your chance.”

Jupiter has dominated the evening sky for several months, but now it’s on its way down and out for the season. It’ll be gone in another couple of weeks.

Mercury, on the other hand, will climb a little higher in the western twilight by late March. (This refers to viewers in the world’s mid-northern latitudes, including the United States, Canada, southern Europe, and elsewhere between about 30 degrees and 50 degrees north latitude.)

The two planets will appear closest together on Monday and Tuesday, March 14th and 15th, when they’ll be only about 2 degrees apart — about the width of your thumb held at arm’s length.

Although the two planets appear close together, they’re not. Jupiter is more than 5 times farther away, at a distance of 550 million miles compared to Mercury’s 102 million miles. That means the light we see from them takes 49 minutes and 9 minutes, respectively, to reach us.

“Don’t miss this chance to do a little astronomy from your backyard, balcony, or rooftop,” says Sky and Telescope associate editor Tony Flanders. “It’s a big universe, and planets await.” (ANI)

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