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Jupiter and Venus get cozy in revealing late-night display

Red Planet also makes an appearance

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Be prepared to hear a lot of irritating New Age chatter about the planets being in alignment over the next few days, because some of them actually will be.

Venus and Jupiter have been lighting up the evening skies in the last few weeks and are drawing closer and closer together, until Venus passes just 3 degrees north of Jupiter between 12 to 15 March.

After that, they'll appear to separate again, with Venus, the brighter of the two, continuing to climb in the night sky and Jupiter sinking towards the horizon.

Conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter are not all that uncommon, but they need to meet at just the right place for us to be able to see them together from our vantage point on Earth.

In reality, Venus is around 150 million kilometres (93 million miles) from Earth and Jupiter is more than 600 million kilometres (373 million miles) further off, but they'll appear to line up side-by-side tonight and will appear to be just two finger-widths apart to viewers on Earth on Tuesday evening.

The planetary alignment is not the only show for skywatchers this month. Stargazers will already have noticed Venus and Jupiter edging ever nearer, and will also have seen Mercury sitting just above the horizon after sunset on 8 March.

Mars is also apparent in the sky this month as the Red Planet has come within 100 million kilometres (62 million miles) of Earth, an event that takes place once every 26 months. The closest the planet came was on 5 March, but Mars is still bright in the sky.

Later this month, as Venus and Jupiter move away from each other again, the crescent moon will sit alongside Jupiter on 25 March and then Venus, higher up in the sky, the next night. ®

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