Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the night sky, will reach their peak drama on Wednesday, March 1. These planets have been slowly approaching each other for several weeks, and on this day, they will be at their closest point, appearing side by side in the west-southwest sky at sunset. Observers can easily spot them with the naked eye, as they will be about one-third up in the sky and visible for at least two hours. Catch the Rare Spectacle of Venus and Jupiter’s Super Close Encounter in the Night Sky, Next Opportunity in 2032.
Catch the Rare Spectacle of Venus and Jupiter’s Super Close Encounter in the Night Sky, Next Opportunity in 2032
The planets will be separated in the night sky by a distance of just over half a degree, roughly the same width as the moon. It is even possible to spot them against the blue daytime sky before sunset. However, their close proximity might lead some casual observers to mistake them for strange UFOs in the evening twilight.
The spectacle of Venus and Jupiter is sure to attract the attention of skywatchers and casual observers alike. Their proximity to each other is an uncommon event, and it’s not something to miss. Whether viewed with the naked eye or with optical aid, this rare cosmic event is sure to leave an impression on those lucky enough to witness it.
Venus and Jupiter are interacting closely
Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the night sky, are set to put on a spectacular show on Wednesday, March 1. This is a rare occurrence that happens only 15 times over a 50-year interval, where the two planets approach each other as close or closer than they will be now while maintaining a distance of at least 15 degrees from the sun.
The closest point of their conjunction will occur on Wednesday evening, with the planets appearing side by side in the west-southwest sky at sunset. Observers can easily spot them with the naked eye, as they will be about one-third up in the sky and visible for at least two hours. This event is expected to be the best in nearly a decade. Not until Feb. 7, 2032, will Venus and Jupiter come closer to each other, at 0.35 degrees, and that will be in the morning sky.
Observers will be thrilled to see both planets as globes in the same low-power or medium-power field of view, and this will be possible on Thursday. However, telescopes with wider fields are needed the night before and after. Although both planets will appear small and shaky, the view of the two planets in the same field of view is always exciting. Venus will appear as a small, gibbous-shaped blob, while Jupiter will be noticeably larger, with three of its four Galilean satellites appearing in a nearly straight line on one side of the big planet. In this order, moving outward, they are Io, Ganymede, and Callisto. For those living in the western US and Canada, the fourth Galilean moon, Europa, will appear to emerge from behind Jupiter on the same side as the other three at approximately 6 p.m. PST or 7 p.m. MST.
When both planets are viewed in the same telescopic field, whether in the afternoon or evening sky, Venus’ disk has a far greater brilliance than Jupiter’s. Although these planets have approximately equal albedos, reflecting about three-fourths of the incident sunlight back into space, Jupiter is nearly seven times as far from the sun as Venus and receives barely two percent as much light per unit area as Venus does. Hence, though Jupiter’s disk appears nearly three times wider than Venus’, the latter planet outshines Jupiter more than five times, with their magnitudes being -3.9 and -2.1, respectively.
This rare cosmic event is something not to be missed. Whether viewed with the naked eye or with optical aid, the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter is a breathtaking spectacle and a testament to the beauty of our universe. It’s a unique opportunity for skywatchers and casual observers alike to witness the magic of the cosmos and marvel at the wonders of the night sky.
This year, Venus will be visible in the evening sky, putting on a performance that will be nearly identical to the one it gave in 2015. This is because there is a rhythm to Venus’ motion, and in 8 Earth years (or 2,922 days), Venus appears to make five orbits around our sky. The synodic period of Venus, which is the time it takes for it to return to the same position relative to the Sun and Earth, is 583.9 days. This means that over a span of 8 years, the difference in Venus’ position is only about 2.4 days.
In May, Venus will be located above the highest point of the ecliptic, 44 degrees east of the Sun. It will set around midnight local daylight time for mid-northern latitudes. Telescopic viewers will have the best view of Venus from early June through early July, as it shrinks in phase from one-half to one-quarter illuminated, while its disk nearly doubles in size. However, by the beginning of August, Venus will disappear into the sunset fires and reappear a few weeks later in the morning sky, where it will remain for the rest of 2023.
Jupiter, on the other hand, travels around the sky differently. Each year, it travels 1/12 of the way around the sky or generally one zodiacal constellation per year. This is because Jupiter’s sidereal period, which is the time it takes to complete one orbit around the Sun relative to the fixed stars, is 11.86 years. This means that Jupiter takes about 12 years to return to the same position in the sky relative to the fixed stars.
In conclusion, Venus and Jupiter have unique motions in the sky that astronomers have been observing and studying for centuries. Their rhythms and patterns provide valuable insights into the workings of our solar system, and their appearances continue to captivate stargazers around the world.
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, began its six-year journey in the northern celestial hemisphere on January 13. It crossed the celestial equator approximately 3 degrees to the east of the vernal equinox, marking Jupiter’s “Aries year.” However, due to the irregular sizes and boundaries of constellations, Jupiter actually started this year in Pisces. Between February 5 and 18, Jupiter briefly crossed a corner of the non-zodiacal constellation Cetus before returning to Pisces until May 18. It will then reach Aries, where it will stay for the remainder of the year.
Jupiter will remain visible in the evening sky until the end of March before disappearing into the solar glare as it transitions into the morning sky. However, early May marks Jupiter’s return from the glare of the rising sun, becoming a fixture in the predawn sky throughout spring, summer, and early fall. Jupiter will reach opposition on November 3, when it returns to the evening sky for the remainder of the year.
Observing planets like Venus and Jupiter can be a rewarding experience for stargazers of all levels. If you’re new to stargazing and need help choosing gear, there are several guides available online to help you select the best telescopes for beginners and the best binoculars. Additionally, if you want to capture your stargazing experience on camera, there are guides on how to photograph the moon, as well as recommendations for the best cameras and lenses for astrophotography.
Jupiter’s journey through the sky provides valuable insights into the workings of our solar system. Its irregular orbit and unique motion through the constellations continue to captivate stargazers around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or a curious beginner, taking the time to observe the movements of the planets can be a fascinating and enlightening experience.