Six Spectacular Months for Planet-watching: March-August 2012
In Mar.-Aug. 2012, students, parents, and teachers can enjoy: The Moon passing as many as five bright planets and five stars of first magnitude or brighter each month; four bright planets Mercury-Venus-Jupiter-Mars visible simultaneously at dusk in late February and early March; Venus-Jupiter as a close brilliant pair at dusk around March 13 (and at dawn around July 1); Venus in crescent phases this spring, culminating with its rare transit across face of Sun on June 5; Mars in early March brighter and closer than it’ll be again until its next approach to Earth in April 2014; four bright planets Jupiter-Venus-Mars-Saturn visible simultaneously each evening during most of March and April; Saturn and the star Spica visible all night in mid-April and paired more closely in spring and summer 2012 than they’ll be again until 2041; a major solar eclipse before sunset on May 20; a partial lunar eclipse before dawn on June 4; and a compact rendezvous of Mars, Saturn, and Spica at dusk just after Curiosity lands on the Red Planet in August.
These items may help students visualize and enjoy these events:
The February 2012 Sky Calendar and evening sky map, available at
The April issue, now available at
A 48” x 36” poster depicting sky events during February through August 2012, a 24” x 24” poster of planetary orbits including a data table for plotting the planets during 2012-2013, and a problem set on predicting planetary visibility from Earth and seasonal visibility of stars are all available by scrolling down at
The two posters without the problem set are available separately at
A PowerPoint slide show of sky events during January through August 2012
is available at
Details for California sky watchers of the May 20 solar eclipse and the June 5 transit of Venus with safe viewing methods will be provided in the May issue of California Classroom Science.