Watching the Skies: Mars, Pleiades star cluster pair up very closely

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The closest conjunction of Mars and the Pleiades star cluster since 1991 will take place early this week.

Two objects are said to be in conjunction when they join up or get very close together in the night sky. Mars and the Pleiades star cluster will be about 2.6 degrees apart from our perspective on March 3.

This is the closest conjunction of the pair in over 30 years. We’ll have to wait until 2038 for the next closest conjunction.

To spot the star cluster and the red planet, look to the west during the early evening. They will still be visible around midnight, but they won’t be as high in the sky.

Mars reached a peak brightness during October 2020, and it has been fading in brightness ever since. It continues to get dimmer by the day, but it is still visible to the naked eye. Binoculars will help improve the view of Mars and may also allow you to see more stars within the Pleiades star cluster.

If you’re struggling to find Mars and the Pleiades, try to spot Orion the Hunter. The three stars that make up Orion’s belt will point directly toward Mars.

The full moon of February took place last weekend. The refraction and reflection of light by ice crystals in high cirrus clouds gave us this beautiful view of a lunar halo in Jenison, captured by Joe Vanthof.

A lunar halo spotted in Jenison. (Courtesy: Joe Vanthof)

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