Luminescent Double Beacons: Jupiter and Venus Cozy Up
Having drawn closer and closer together and rendezvousing with the moon at the end of February, Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest objects in the sky, are putting on a show this week.
They have been converging for several months and tonight they will come within a few degrees of each other, meaning that they will be close enough together to be hidden by two outstretched fingers. The two will be visible together, in conjunction, starting as the sun sets and will glow brighter and brighter as the sky fades to black in a sight that should be visible for about four hours after sunset, Space.com notes.
Tonight and tomorrow, March 12 and 13, the two will appear very close to one another, and on the 14th they will be side by side, a shimmering double beacon. And the result will be spectacular, NASA and other astronomical websites say. In fact, according to Indiana University, an even closer convergence of Jupiter and Venus—when they appeared fused into one blazing star in 2 B.C.—may have been taken for the Star of Bethlehem and sparked the idea that a King, Jesus Christ, had been born.
Of course, given the enormous distance between the two and from Earth, as well as their differences in size and orbit—Jupiter is 11 times wider than Venus, which is about the size of Earth—it is merely an illusion. But one worth watching, even though the moon has already exited the scene.
After the conjunction, the two lovebirds will drift apart slowly over the course of the month. They will not meet again until March 2036, according to Space.com.
The animation below from Space.com courtesy of Starry Night software illustrates the planetary movements and how they translate into our night sky by bopping between an out-of-solar-system vantage point and an on-the-ground look.