I've fielded a few phone calls and e-mails this week asking about a couple of bright "stars" in the early evening sky. If you haven't noticed them, head outside about an hour after sunset this evening (sunset time is 4:40 PM today) and look to the southwest.
What you're actually seeing is sunlight reflecting off of two planets, Venus on the left and Jupiter on the right. Just after sunset tonight (Friday night), the two planets will appear about 5 degrees apart. That's only the width of two or three fingers held at arm's length. Earlier this month, the two planets appeared even closer together and formed a compact triangle with a sliver of the crescent Moon.
Wrap your brain around this... Even though the two planets appear close together, Venus is about 94 million miles from Earth while Jupiter is roughly 540 million miles away, almost six times as far away as Venus.
If clouds obscure your view tonight (and they might as cloudiness is expected to increase late in the day), don't despair. We'll be treated to another great show in the sky on New Year's Eve when Venus and the crescent Moon will have another "close" encounter.