Until month's end, all five planets that are ever visible to the unaided eye shine at once during dusk. Moreover, the Moon and a prominent star cluster join the show as well, forming striking combinations in the early-evening sky.

Five Planets Visible at Once

At dusk in late March 2004, all five naked-eye planets will be above the horizon at the same time. Venus and Jupiter are so bright they can't be missed. This simple sky chart will help you find fainter Mercury, Mars, and Saturn.

Sky & Telescope illustration.

Look west as twilight fades on any clear evening, and there's dazzling white Venus. You can't miss it. Venus is the brightest point of light in the early-evening sky.

Look very far below Venus, and perhaps a bit to the right, to catch fainter little Mercury near the horizon. Be sure to look early (about 45 to 60 minutes after sunset) before Mercury gets too low and sets.

To the upper left of Venus, by roughly the width of your fist held at arm's length, you'll find fainter Mars, glimmering pale orange-red.

Three times farther to Mars's upper left is pale yellow Saturn. It's positioned high above the bright constellation Orion.

And Jupiter is the big, bright point of light shining high in the east-southeast. It's second in brightness only to Venus.

One Day Events

. March 24: Crescent Moon and Venus Grab the Eye!

The Moon and Venus are closely paired in the western sky this evening, a strikingly beautiful sight. "This is going to be a real head-turner," says MacRobert. "People will see this through their windshields driving home from work and say, 'What's that?'"

The Moon and Venus are the two brightest objects in the sky after the Sun. Binoculars will give an especially gorgeous view of them paired. This is also a good time to look for "earthshine" making the dark portion of the Moon glow dimly gray. Earthshine is sunlight reflected from the Earth onto the Moon's nighttime landscape — the same way a full Moon lights the ground on Earth at night.

As dusk deepens, look for fainter Mars to the upper left of the Moon and Venus, the star Aldebaran to the left or upper left of Mars (looking like its twin), and the Pleiades star cluster nearer to Mars's right. The cluster is about as big as your fingertip held at arm's length.

. March 25: Moon with Mars

As a coda to yesterday's Moon-Venus pairing, the Moon now pairs very closely with dimmer orange-red Mars — while Venus blazes brightly to their lower right.

. March 27: Saturn Left of the Moon

The Moon now pairs up with Saturn, the next planet east across the sky. Saturn is to the Moon's left. Look below them for the bright constellation Orion.

. March 28: Saturn under the Moon

Tonight you'll find the pale yellow point of Saturn shining beneath the Moon, which is now at first-quarter phase (half lit).

Dusk on April 1st

Sky & Telescope diagram.

. April 1–4: Venus Meets the Pleiades

Meanwhile, action has been developing in the west. During and after nightfall in the first few days of April, you'll see the little Pleiades star cluster positioned close to brilliant Venus. Again, binoculars give a wonderful view.

. April 2: Moon Shines with Jupiter

Tonight the gibbous Moon shines close to bright Jupiter — the last of the five naked-eye planets that it meets — high in the southeast.


You must be logged in to post a comment.