You may not always notice them, but Venus, Jupiter (and a few other planets) often appear as extra-bright stars in the evening sky. Right now, those two have just come in for a kiss, and are approximately the closest they’ll appear in the sky until 2039.
The phenomenon is called a conjunction. Venus and Jupiter are each on their own path, orbiting around the sun, and from our vantage point on Earth, we can look out and see the two of them at the same time. They are, of course, still 400 million miles away from each other, but to our eyes, they’ll appear less than a pinky fingernail’s-width apart in the sky.
Venus and Jupiter last “kissed” in 2022, but they didn’t come nearly as close as they are now. The two planets have been inching closer together over the past week or two, at one point lining up picturesquely with the moon. BBC Science Focus has collected photos from around the world showing the two planets as they appear to approach each other.
(Again, they are nowhere near each other, but are briefly aligned as they pass by us — like two cars on a multi-lane road when we are standing on the side of the highway. If you lived on Venus, you would have no idea this was happening. If you lived on Jupiter, you’d be reading on JupiterHacker about an Earth-Venus conjunction.)
Technically, last night was the closest the planets will appear during this conjunction. But they are still scandalously close, and will begin to drift apart over the next few nights.
Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest objects in the sky, so you don’t need a telescope or even binoculars to see them — just peek outside this evening. The sun sets in the west, and that’s where these planets will be. So just wait a bit after sunset and look in the direction of where the sun just was. Venus will be the brighter of the two dots.
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