I encourage you to go out and gaze at the western sky in the early evening hours during the next week (week of March 12). Two very bright objects are performing an interesting dance.
The brighter of the two objects is planet Venus. Nothing (except the sun and moon) gets nearly as bright in the sky as Venus. Near it is the very bright planet Jupiter. Jupiter is moving westward and will pass Venus on next Monday and Tuesday evenings, March 12-13. These two very bright objects will then be only about two finger-widths apart.
Jupiter will then continue moving westward night-by-night toward the sun, and we will lose it in the twilight glare in mid-April. Venus will move eastward relative to the stars until late March, and then it will turn around and begin to move westward. It will remain very bright until it becomes lost in the low western sky in mid-late May.
While you are out looking at Venus and Jupiter, you will also notice some other celestial objects. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, star-cluster is about a hand-width above Venus.
In the lower southern sky is a very bright star. This is Sirius, called the Dog Star because it is in Canis Major, the Big Dog. Sirius is the brightest star that can be seen from earth at any time of the year–though it is not as bright as planets Venus and Jupiter.
Almost two hand-widths to the upper right of Sirius is the famous constellation Orion, the hunter. Most people can pick out the three equally bright stars which mark his belt. About a hand-width above his belt is orang-ish Betelgeuse--one of the largest stars known. About a hand-width below the belt is blue-white Rigel--one of the hottest and most energetic stars known.
The bright object in the eastern sky is orange Mars. It will not appear this bright again for almost two years, though it is not quite as bright as Sirius.
I believe you will find the Venus-Jupiter dance to be very pretty and the other objects up at that time also interesting. The early evening is usually a convenient time, so I hope you don’t miss the opportunity.
Professor of Physical Sciences, Emeritus (but still teaching!)
Napa Valley College