For the last few months, Venus and Jupiter have been visible in the night sky. Venus makes it’s usual 584 day cycle, becoming an ‘evening star’ once again, reaching far from the Sun in the West, while still following our central star. Jupiter has slowly worked its way westward over the past few months, due more in part to Earth’s orbit than Jupiter’s. Finally, the long-awaited conjunction of the planets is nigh, and it offers the best views and photographic opportunities of the year for professional and amateur astronomers alike.
What is the brightest object in the sky? The Sun of course. The second brightest? Naturally the Moon. But after that, its not a star, it’s Venus who claims third place, and Jupiter who comes in fourth. The planets are far closer than the stars, and even though they don’t produce their own light, the reflections of sunlight are bright enough to outshine any giant ball of plasma off in the distance.
It was a clear night in Toronto last night, and I was actually able to block out the two planets using a single finger held at arm’s length. It was a magnificent sight, though tonight, June 30th, will have them so close, that they could both hide behind the Moon as it appears in the sky. Sadly the weather doesn’t look promising this evening.
The most amazing part of all this, especially if you get a chance to see it, is that although they appear close together, Jupiter is actually a few million Kilometers further away than Venus is. Jupiter is also on the opposite side of the Sun from Venus and the Earth.
Even if you miss the great conjunction due to weather, the two worlds will stay close together over the next few days, and both will remain visible in the low Western sky for several weeks. So get out and see them. The weather is warm in Canada so it’s the best time to get out and observe. Happy planet-hunting!