When Venus and Mars meet, romance is afoot. Put aside any fears you may have about scary dates, whether it's Friday the 13th or Valentine's Day, Saturday the 14th. Bundle up and get out there, find a long view west, and discover for yourself how the beauty of the night sky leads one to thoughts of love.
Venus and Mars – that's 'woman and man' in the celestial metaphor – will close with each other over the next week or so, playing out a beautiful pas de deux in the twilight sky. The most dramatic dates for skywatching will be next week, Friday, February 20, and Saturday, February 21.
The moon begins its new phase on the 18th, so the crescent moon might be too slender and too low to spot on the 19th. If your view to the west is unobstructed, however, it's worth a quick sky check to try to catch a glimpse some 45 minutes after the sun sets. The moon will be close to the horizon in Aquarius, with Venus and Mars close together just above in Pisces.
The next evening, the 20th, the view gets even better, as the crescent moon is snuggled up close to Venus and Mars. By the 21st, the waxing moon has moved away from the planetary pair, but that's the night that the conjunction between the second planet from the Sun, Venus, and the fourth, Mars, is as close as its going to get until October 2017.
After their pairing, Venus and Mars will start to separate slowly, reversing their positions, as Venus moves away from the western horizon and Mars creeps closer until by the beginning of April only diehard skywatchers will be able to spot its reddish glow in the twilight. Venus will continue her reign as the glorious 'Evening Star' with the prospect of a dazzling meet-up with Jupiter at the end of June. A few days after new moon in July, the crescent moon will join the two brightest planets before they disappear from the evening sky. We'll keep you posted.