February 2015 The Parade of Planets Continues – Venus and *Mars*

Last month the close conjunction of Venus and Mercury allowed us to see Mercury,the innermost planet of our Solar System. This month, Feb 20/21 2015,  we have a new near neighbour to Venus at Sunset – planet Mars . However Mars may be hidden by the glare of Venus at the closest line of sight pairing – “nearly 100 times brighter. Its dazzling yellow-white disk, shining at magnitude –3.9, is 12 arcseconds wide and 88% illuminated, whereas peach-colored Mars is much dimmer, magnitude +1.2 or +1.3 … ”   Since Mars is nowhere near opposition (it is not at a close approach to Earth at this time), it shows up at just 4 arcseconds across.

– See more at: Sky and Telescope Magazine – Venus and Mars Conjunction Feb 2015

Courtesy Sky and Telescope
The parade of the planets above our horizon goes along the track called the 'Ecliptic'. On this
same date Jupiter is rising in the East, in the Spring constellation Cancer. Do you notice something special
about these Constellations? They lie along the Zodiac.
...    Leo                    Cancer         Gemini                     Taurus ...
Courtesy Stellarium Software for Linux
 Zodiac (Greek: ζῳδιακός, zōidiakos) is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude that are centered upon the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets also remain close to the ecliptic, within the belt of the zodiac  Because the divisions are regular, they do not correspond exactly to the twelve constellations after which they are named. - courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac
– courtesy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac#mediaviewer/File:Ecliptic_path.jpg
The Earth in its orbit around the Sun causes the Sun to appear on the celestial sphere moving over the ecliptic (red), which is tilted with respect to the celestial equator (blue-white)- the extension of the Earth's equator in the sky. For more information on the Ecliptic path see: https://millstonenews.com/2014/04/night-sky-course-planets-earth-and-orbits-around-the-sun.html