Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

King and Queen of the Night Sky

Jupiter (upper right) and Venus (left) Feb. 10, 2012 6:50 PM

Jupiter and Venus, the two great and famous luminaries of heaven  are now 30° apart in the western sky during early evening and are moving closer to each other by  roughly one degree each day.

Jupiter, king of planets, has been our constant evening companion for the last six months.  Only Venus outshines Jupiter among the planets and stars. Venus and Jupiter are so bright you might think you’ve witnessed a double supernova beaming through the evening twilight. But, no, it’s just the two brightest planets in our own solar system.

Over the next couple weeks, Venus and Jupiter will continuously reign the evening sky; only the moon will be brighter. The planets will continue to get closer and closer to one another until March.

On the evenings of February 24, 25 and 26, the thin lunar crescent will pass close to Venus and Jupiter.

By March 14 and 15, these two bright objects will be on a spectacular conjunction — the closest in 2012. The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction after this one falls on May 28, 2013.

At the moment of closest approach, Venus will be at mag -4.9, and Jupiter at mag -2.1, both in the constellation Aries. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

After this event, Venus and Jupiter will remain close throughout the month of March 2012. They are like twin beacons – two very bright planets – near each other in the west as soon as the sun goes down.

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