Science

Venus and Jupiter in 'close encounter'

Astronomy enthusiasts are gearing up for a dazzling planetary conjunction this week during which Jupiter and Venus will appear to be side by side.
The planets Venus (top left), Jupiter (top right) and the crescent moon were captured in this photo from Dec. 1, 2008. (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press)

Astronomy enthusiasts are gearing up for a dazzling planetary conjunction this week during which Jupiter and Venus will appear to be side by side.

In space, of course, Venus and Jupiter are nowhere near each other. But when viewed from Earth, the pair will look as if they are close neighbours.

From our perspective on Earth, the two planets will be separated by just three degrees — a couple of finger-widths held at arm's length.

"Teamed up with the bright winter stars, the setting should be spectacular," says a posting on the website of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Space.com says this Venus-Jupiter conjunction will be the best for several years to come for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere because the two planets will be visible for such a long time in the evening sky.

Amateur astronomers should point their telescopes over the west-southwest horizon shortly after sunset on Monday night. The pair should be plainly visible for well over two hours. The "close encounter" should repeat every evening through Thursday.

But even without a telescope, this planetary conjunction should be visible as long as there's no cloud cover. Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest planets in the night sky, with Venus the brighter of the two.

Venus, Jupiter and the moon first began converging in February. 

On June 5, Venus will again attract astronomers' attention when it appears to cross in front of the sun. After June, the next such transit doesn't occur until 2117. 

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