Archive for March, 2012


At the moment Mars is shining very brightly in the sky, and if you look for it at about 9pm, it will be very close to the moon.  It is so bright that you can’t really miss it and can even be seen clearly when the full moon is shining brightly. Mars is at its closest to the Earth at the moment which is why it is a great time to get out and view the planet through either binoculars or a telescope.

I noticed it a couple of nights ago when I decided to have a look at the sky at about 9pm. Whilst looking around I spotted a very bright and red star just under and to the left of the almost full moon. At first I thought it was Betelgeuse or Aldebaran (both red giants) but as I scanned the night sky further, I picked these up further to the South East from where I was standing. So I consulted my astronomy book and found that it was actually Mars shining bright and red in the sky.  I had never seen it so red before, so I went in and got some binoculars to take a closer look (I didn’t have immediate access to my telescope at the time). I was quite amazed to be able to make out the North Polar Cap of the planet as it was shining brightly, and some of the darker mountain regions. I spent several minutes gazing at Mars and it was great!

A couple of days later, after a lot of rain, I got my telescope out ready to take a look, only for the sky to cloud over on a couple of occasions. When I did finally manage to get a glimpse between clouds, Mars wasn’t as red or as bright unfortunately. Through the telescope I couldn’t see too much at all and nowhere near the detail that I saw through my binoculars, which was a great shame. It was probably due to the Moon being completely full and the brightest I had seen it for a long time, and also because it was literally to the right of Mars. The glare of the Moon was too much to see Mars properly.  Whilst I was out there, I did get a good look at Venus again before it crept over and behind the roof of my house!

Here is an image of Mars that I have found that is closest to what I saw through my binoculars –

The Planet Mars

The Planet Mars


Out of the planets that I had seen through my telescope, I hadn’t seen Venus properly until the end of January this year. Venus has been, and still is, very bright in the sky and at the end of January it was perfectly placed to view in my back garden.

Before viewing the planet, I wasn’t sure what I was going to see. I knew the planet was a sphere and had a blue tint to it but didn’t think that I would see it like that, and I knew it didn’t have any rings so I think I was just expecting to see something like a star in the sky.

It took a couple of nights to actually view Venus properly as on the first night I tried, it was slightly misty, so the planet wasn’t well spotted.  The next night, I waited until it got too dark, so too much light was reflecting from it which dazzled through the telescope. I then read up on viewing Venus and found the best time to view it was at dusk when it was still slightly light and the planet wasn’t too bright. So on my third attempt, I had the telescope outside ready for dusk and saw Venus brilliantly through it!

To my surprise, it did actually look blue! It was like viewing a bluish ball just hanging in Space. It obviously didn’t have the grandeur of Jupiter (Moons and storm clouds) or Saturn (rings) but it was great to see a planet that looked different to the others that I had seen.  I was very pleased with what I saw, to say the least!  The image below is the closest one I could find that looked like what I saw (obviously what I saw was the whole planet and not the half that was in the light).  My telescope is not powerful enough to view the planet in the size below, but I could still see it very well!

The Planet Venus

The Planet Venus

Venus is still going to be very bright in the sky over the next couple of months, so if you can, I would try and get out and view it!  In fact, the planet is meant to be as bright as the Moon and will cast shadows, which I find very interesting indeed.  The best time to test this would be towards the middle of the month (March) when there is no Moon in the Sky, so Venus should be the main light source during clear nights.

Happy Venus spotting!