Tonights about you

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Duane W. Tanya Hill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Venus has returned to our evening skies and is looking lovely in the north-west after sunset. Tonight, July 13, it will pair up with the red planet Mars and just above the two planets will be the waxing crescent Moon. Wherever you are in Australia, find a location that has a good view of the north-west horizon to see the conjunction.

Venus will be visible during dusk, but you need to wait until the sky darkens to have a chance to see faint Mars. Mars will appear just above and to the left of Venus.

Tonights about you

The best viewing opportunity will be from about pmwith the planets setting an hour later. Mars, on the other hand, is looking fairly faint. The red planet has been in the north-west sky for the past few months and while it was bright and red earlier in the year, it has been fading quite considerably as its orbit takes it away from Earth. On Tuesday evening, the pair will appear so close together, they will fit within the field of view of a telescope or pair of binoculars.

Yet in reality, they are millions of kilometres apart — Venus will be around million km from Earth and Mars a more distant million km. Aboriginal Australians have witnessed close pairings of Venus and Mars for thousands of years and for the Euahlayi people of northern New South Wales it has particular ificance. This cosmic pairing represents the eyes of Buwadjarrthe supreme creation ancestor. As one Euahlayi elder who chose not to be named told researchers :.

During the day, the eyes of Maliyan the eaglehawk are the eyes of [Buwadjarr]. Because one is red Marsand one is blue and green Venus. : Aboriginal traditions describe the complex motions of planets, the 'wandering stars' of the sky. When it does this it also twinkles. Elders describe the planet as an old man who told a crude joke and is animatedly laughing to himself. The event is also linked to ceremony.

Euahlayi people follow part of a Songline mapped out in the stars to travel to a place near Quilpie, km northwest of Goodooga in western Queensland. Bringing with them a green and blue opal, representing Venus, they meet the local Maranganji people, who provide a red stone ifying Mars. : How ancient Aboriginal star maps have shaped Australia's highway network. But on our two neighbours, those oceans have dried up. For Venus, new modelling suggests that volcanic activity could have been the likely cause. Over a short period of time, so much carbon dioxide was pumped into the atmosphere that it could not be re-absorbed by the rocks.

This triggered a runaway greenhouse effect and turned Venus into the hot, hellish world we know today. : Venus was once more Earth-like, but climate change made it uninhabitable.

Tonights about you

Back when water was flowing on Mars, the planet was much warmer because its atmosphere was more substantial. However over billions of years, the solar wind made up of particles from the Sun has blown away much of that atmosphere. The atmosphere is now so thin that liquid water can no longer exist on the Martian surface. Some water may have escaped along with the atmospherebut the majority seems to be locked up in the Martian rocks and frozen underground.

As you observe the planets and in particular the Moon, you may notice an arrangement of stars that looks like an upside-down question mark. Leo is one of the original Greek constellations and also one of the 12 constellations of the zodiac. The zodiac is a band of constellations that maps the path of the Sun known as the eclipticand therefore the Moon and planets can be found passing through these constellations throughout the year.

From our vantage point in the southern hemisphere, Leo appears upside-down. Uncle Yidumduma Bill Harney describes it as the creation dog.

Tonights about you

Right now, we are seeing Moroborronggo setting in the west, but back in April when the star is seen rising in the east at sunset, it brings special ificance as it marks the start of the Wardaman calendarwhen the monsoon rains begin to ease.

An earlier version of this article used a name that has been changed out of respect for Indigenous customs. The Conversation regrets any offence caused. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. HamacherThe University of Melbourne.

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