by Jupiter! Stargazers enjoy a cosmic treat as the solar system’s largest planet appears to be close to colliding with Venus in a rare celestial sight.
- Venus and Jupiter are 430 million miles away, but they seem ‘touching’
- This phenomenon happens every year but this weekend looked much closer
- If there is a clear sky, the naked eye or binoculars will suffice to see the planets
Stargazers were enjoying a cosmic treat this weekend as two of the solar system’s brightest planets appear close to collide in the night sky.
Venus and Jupiter are approximately 430 million miles apart, but when viewed from Earth they seem to almost touch each other in a rare celestial spectacle known as a planetary conjunction.
This phenomenon occurs every year when the planets revolve around the sun, but this weekend the celestial bodies look much closer than usual. The same scene will not be repeated until 2039.
If there is a clear sky, then the naked eye or binoculars will suffice to see the planets above the horizon in the east.
Venus, the brightest duo, will appear only 0.2 degrees – less than the diameter of a full moon – south of Jupiter. The planets will appear more clearly before dawn in the coming weeks as they slowly begin to drift apart.
Magical scene: Jupiter and Venus loom in the sky over Rocca Calaccio Castle in central Italy before sunrise yesterday
The conjunction occurs when two planets appear close to each other, or even touch, in the night sky.
Venus and Jupiter slowly appeared to approach each other in the final days before they met in their conjunction. Best time to watch this was at 5am this morning, just before sunrise.
The planets are now so bright that if the sky was clear, they could be seen with the naked eye.
Telescope enthusiasts can pinpoint the features of Jupiter or some of its largest moons. It’s also possible to get a rare glimpse of Mars and Saturn in the same patch of sky, which appears to form a line of four planets.
Jupiter, named after the king of the Roman gods, is the third brightest object in the night sky after the Moon and Venus. It has been amazed since prehistoric times.
Venus, which will remain visible before dawn until September, is the second planet from the sun and is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty.
Jupiter (left) and Venus (right) are about 430 million miles apart, but when viewed from Earth they appear to almost touch in a rare celestial spectacle known as a planetary conjunction
With the planets appearing low in the sky, stargazers who haven’t seen the spectacle yet are advised to find a high spot or an unobstructed view on a clear night to catch a glimpse of the dazzling duo.
“It’s very exciting for astronomers, and it’s really a great opportunity for people to come out and have a look,” Professor Lucy Green, chief stargazer at the Popular Astronomy Society, told the BBC.
The planets will differ in their brightness. Venus is much brighter than Jupiter, so it will look amazingly bright when you see it.
“Jupiter will be a little fainter, about one-sixth the brightness of Venus,” she said.
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