Jupiter and Venus are breathtaking by themselves, but it gets even better tonight. The pair of planets will appear within a fraction of a degree apart tonight and tomorrow. You’ve probably noticed the bright ‘star’ pair over the past few nights shortly after sunset.
The planets will be so close together, you’ll be able to see Venus’ crescent and Jupiter and four of its moons through a telescope at the same time. I managed to catch a glimpse of the pair last night, and it was incredible.
How close is a fraction of a degree? You’ll be able to cover both planets with just your pinky held at arm’s length.
Venus and Jupiter’s get together is known in astronomy circles as a conjunction. And, they are not as rare as you might think. This week’s conjunction is the second in the past year. Another meetup is expected just before sunrise on October 26.
How to see the Jupiter/Venus conjunction
Don’t wait too long after sunset. Head outside just after sunset and you should have no problem spotting the pair. Look to the west-northwest. If you have a pair of binoculars, take them out with you. A telescope? Even better.
You’ll be able to see a bright crescent Venus right beside Jupiter and four of its biggest moons. It’s an incredible sight and one you shouldn’t pass up. I’m just hoping these thunderstorms kick out of here before sunset.
Here’s a look at where Venus and Jupiter are in their orbits.
I screen capped the image from Solar System Scope. It’s a cool website that shows you the orbits of the planets for whatever time period you want.
Jupiter and Venus will appear to be about the same size, despite the big differences in actual size. Venus is about 56 million miles away from Earth while Jupiter is 550 million miles away. They might look like they are sitting side-by-side, but they are actually very far apart.
If you miss tonight or tomorrow, you will have a few more chances this year. But, this week’s Jupiter/Venus conjunction will be the closest until 2023.
Just make sure you start looking just after sunset. I barely managed to see the pair last night around 9 pm before they started moving below the trees. If you manage to snap a picture of the conjunction, send me an email. I’ll update this post with the best pictures over the next day or two.
Image credit: Kevin Baird (via Flickr)