Check out Venus, Mars and the moon close together in the night sky

An interstellar feast for the eyes. Look up and you can gaze upon a dazzling view of Venus, Mars and the moon Tuesday night.


Skywatchers are in for an (inter)stellar treat this week. Look up and you can gaze upon a dazzling view of Venus, Mars and the moon Monday and Tuesday nights, according to EarthSky.

Venus and Mars have been moving toward one another all weekend, culminating in their closest meeting during the early hours of Tuesday, July 13, around 3 a.m. ET. As seen from Earth, the planets will appear only half a degree — or only a finger's width — apart, according to NASA. This meeting of planets in the sky is referred to as a planetary conjunction.

This is just an illusion, of course, because the two planets are extremely far apart in reality.

"Even during this conjunction, they will still be many millions of miles apart," said Giada Arney in a video on NASA's website. "But from our point of view here on Earth, they will appear to be close together." Arney is a research space scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and a deputy principal investigator of the upcoming DAVINCI+ mission to Venus. DAVINCI+ stands for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus.

Moon, Venus and Mars
Alan Dyer/VWPics/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
The brightest object in the night sky, the moon is shown flanked by three planets: Venus (below); Mars, just above the moon; and Jupiter (top), as seen in Portal, Arizona on December 6, 2015.

Since this timing coincides with the young moon's return to the night sky, the conjunction of Venus and Mars will appear alongside a slim crescent moon that is only 10% illuminated.

Most observers will be able to see the three celestial bodies both Monday and Tuesday evenings, according to NASA. Viewers can look west about 45 minutes after sunset to spot the event these nights, but it can be viewed through July 14 if there are clear skies.

Venus, the closest to Earth and the brightest planet in the night sky, will appear very slightly above the red planet. Mars, planet of war, mythologically speaking, will be much smaller and dimmer in comparison to the glowing Venus, planet of love. First look for gleaming Venus, then shift your eyes slightly below for the smaller speck that is Mars.

Venus and Mars are both in the night sky in July, slowly approaching and eventually passing one another. Venus started the month below Mars and is moving up and away from the setting sun as the red planet drops and approaches the setting sun.

The red planet is most visible at the start of July and becomes more difficult to spot as the month comes and goes, according to EarthSky. You likely won't see it at all come August. Venus, however, will remain in the evening sky for the rest of the year, reaching its greatest brightness on Dec. 4 along with the new moon.

The conjunction is just one of the spectacular events you can catch in the night sky this year. Here is what else you can look forward to in 2021.

Meteor showers

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower is best seen from the southern tropics and will peak between July 28 and 29, when the moon is 74% full.

Interestingly, another meteor shower peaks on the same night — the Alpha Capricornids. Although this is a much weaker shower, it has been known to produce some bright fireballs during its peak. It will be visible for everyone, regardless of which side of the equator you are on.

The Perseid meteor shower, the most popular of the year, will peak between Aug. 11 and 12 in the Northern Hemisphere, when the moon is only 13% full.

Here is the meteor shower schedule for the rest of the year, according to EarthSky's meteor shower outlook.

• Oct. 8: Draconids

• Oct. 21: Orionids

• Nov. 4 to 5: South Taurids

• Nov. 11 to 12: North Taurids

• Nov. 17: Leonids

• Dec. 13 to 14: Geminids

• Dec. 22: Ursids

Visible planets

It's possible to see most of these with the naked eye, with the exception of distant Neptune, but binoculars or a telescope will provide the best view.

Mercury will look like a bright star in the morning sky from June 27 to July 16 and Oct. 18 to Nov. 1. It will shine in the night sky from Aug. 31 to Sept. 21, and Nov. 29 to Dec. 31.

Venus, our closest neighbor in the solar system, will appear in the western sky at dusk in the evenings through Dec. 31. It's the second-brightest object in our sky, after the moon.

Mars makes its reddish appearance in the morning sky between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31, and it will be visible in the evening sky through Aug. 22.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is the third-brightest object in our sky. It will be on display in the morning sky through Aug. 19. Look for it in the evenings Aug. 20 to Dec. 31 — but it will be at its brightest from Aug. 8 to Sept. 2.

Saturn's rings are only visible through a telescope, but the planet itself can still be seen with the naked eye in the mornings through Aug. 1 and in the evenings from Aug. 2 to Dec. 31. It will be at its brightest during the first four days of August.

Binoculars or a telescope will help you spot the greenish glow of Uranus in the mornings through Nov. 3 and in the evenings from Nov. 4 to Dec. 31. It will be at its brightest between Aug. 28 and Dec. 31.

And our most distant neighbor in the solar system, Neptune, will be visible through a telescope in the mornings through Sept. 13 and during the evenings Sept. 14 to Dec. 31. It will be at its brightest between July 19 and Nov. 8.