Venus – Jupiter Conjunction
For those of you like me who have noticed two unusually bright objects in the recently very clear night skies, and wondered what they were… then wonder no more… as we are all witnessing the best Venus-Jupiter conjunction for many years..
In astrological terms, a conjunction is simply when two or more planets appear to be close together in the sky, when in reality they are separated by almost unimaginable distances. The brighter of the two objects the we can see at the moment is Venus which despite being much smaller than Jupiter is obviously very much closer to us.
Venus is generally considered to be the second brightest object in our skies after the Moon, and at it’s closest, can be only about 38 million km (24 million miles) away, whilst at other times it disappears completely as it spins out on its 225 day orbit around the sun.
The closest Jupiter gets to Earth on the other hand is in the order of about 630 million km (390 million miles) so despite it being more than 120 times bigger than either Earth or Venus (which are surprisingly similar in size) its magnitude of brightness is significantly less.
Jupiter has quite a special place in my heart, as when we were in Peru a few years back, we visited the Maria Reiche Observatory in Nazca and saw with our own eyes (with the help of a big telescope obviously) Jupiter and four of her moons, clear as anything, about as big as a tennis ball. A trully amazing experience…
Anyway, I tried taking some photos of the conjunction last weekend when the two planets were closest together, but I just didn’t have the technology to pull it off. So I tried again with another camera this weekend and this one just about captures this alluring spectacle, especially as I also managed to catch the crescent moon (the lowest of the three lights).
If you’re interested, the next opportunity to see a Venus-Jupiter conjunction will be in May next year, although as the planets will be much lower in the sky, they will be visible together for less than an hour before they disappear below the horizon.
The rather nice image below is from someone’s Astroblg here. Taken looking over the River Spey towards Garmouth up in Scotland, I think it’s fair to say that it better captures the brightness and size of the two planets than mine does above.