Venus and Jupiter put on a show at dusk across the skies

  • Vanita Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 01, 2015 03:46 IST

After weeks of gliding closer, Venus and Jupiter, the brightest planets in our sky, will merge into a dazzling 'double star' in the western horizon after sunset on Tuesday.

This celestial spectacle will happen on the night of June 30 in the United States and other western countries, and in Australia and the East, including India on July 1.

NASA says that sky gazers should be able to see Venus as a waning crescent, and Jupiter surrounded by its moons. Last weekend Venus, Jupiter and the Moon lined up to form a perfect triangle in the night sky.

It's the closest the two planets will appear to us until August 2016.

"On July 1 at 1.21 noon one of the splendid celestial phenomena will occur giving people an easy opportunity to see Venus and Jupiter together with the naked eye after sunset. In other words both Jupiter and Venus will appear to be near each other as seen from Earth,” Raghunandan Kumar, Director Planetary Society, India said.

Such a celestial show is called a “conjunction.” Close pairings of Venus and Jupiter are not particularly rare, however.

This pairing will be so tight that a small backyard telescope will show both planets in the same field of view, with Venus appearing as a brilliant, fat crescent and Jupiter accompanied by its four largest moons.

Telescopically, the two planets will appear identical in size -- an illusion because Jupiter, though 11.8 times the size of Venus, is much farther away.

Venus is 58 million miles (77 million km) from Earth, and Jupiter is 12 times farther out at 565 million miles (909 million km).

The two globes will contrast dramatically in brightness, with Venus’s crescent appearing dazzlingly white compared to Jupiter’s duller, striped cloud deck.

The two planets were 20° apart in the sky in the beginning of June, about twice the width of your fist held at arm’s length.

Week by week, Jupiter and the stars behind it have gradually slipped lower in the evening twilight. But Venus, due to its rapid orbital motion around the Sun, has stayed high up.

The resulting slow-motion convergence put them at 6° last week, when a thin crescent Moon joined the scene, and set the stage for Tuesday’s culmination.

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