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Friday, October 28

That Wasn't Mars AND Venus

Dear Mr Perlman,

I just finished reading the article about the bright lights over the Bay Area: Spellbound by sky lights Bright twinklers were nearby Mars and Venus, say astronomers -- or were they? I'm rather surprised that Mars and Venus were given as the explanation for the bright lights in the sky as they were seen so close together.

You wrote: "Chronicle photographer Lance Iversen caught images of the peculiar lights in his camera around midnight Wednesday, looking east from Twin Peaks. Mars and Venus would have been visible in the eastern skies at that time."

As a matter of fact, Venus can be seen in the southwestern sky right after sunset and it sets shortly after that. It's so bright that I sometimes think it's a plane until I realize that it isn't moving. Mars rises around sunset in the east and by midnight it's rather high up in the eastern sky. It's very red and bright, no way near as large and twinkling as Venus was and by then Venus is long gone from the visible sky. I'm quite surprised that Andrew Fraknoi, a professor of astronomy would suggest those two planets would be close to each other.

You go on to correctly explain why Mars and Venus are so bright (because they are close to the earth now) but you forgot to mention that Venus had set hours before. I'm curious as to why you allowed Venus to be the explanation in the article.


This blonde is not suggesting that the lights were alien spaceships. I'm just surprised that it was explained that the 2 planets could have been seen together. I'm a totally amateur sky watcher and even I know that Venus is no explanation for anything at midnight.

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