Prepare for a conjunction of planets. Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest celestial bodies after the sun and the moon, and in a couple of weeks they will appear side by side in the night sky. Every week since last winter, the two planets have appeared closer and closer to each other and are due to reach their closest point on June 30.
“But already they are something of a head-turning sight,” says Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. “If you hadn’t been paying attention and get a clear evening and look to the west as the stars begin to come out and twilight fades down to night, you’re likely to think, ‘Hey, what’s that?’”
MacRobert explains that planetary conjunctions, as they’re called, happen often because the solar system is relatively flat, with all the planets orbiting on almost but not exactly the same plane, called the ecliptic. It’s as though all the orbital paths are drawn on a piece of paper, he says. “Imagine microscopic little you on paper.”
As the planets move around the sun, you see them around your head in a circle, he explains. When one passes in front of the other, they appear to be close together, as Venus and Jupiter will in several days’ time.
On Friday, a thin crescent moon will be visible below Venus and Jupiter, forming a triangle of the brightest celestial bodies, save for the sun. The following night as well, the three bodies will form the points of a flattened triangle, with the crescent moon appearing closer in line with Venus and Jupiter, above and between them.
After the moon moves on, waxing and continuing in its orbit around the Earth, Venus and Jupiter will get closer and closer by day. They can be seen with the naked eye during mid- to late twilight. The ideal time to observe the phenomenon will vary, depending on one’s location within a time zone.
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SOURCE: Newsweek, Stav Ziv