As sky watchers are still reliving some of the best moments from last night’s stunning Super Blood “Wolf” Moon, the January total lunar eclipse makes way for another gorgeous celestial display. Bright and early tomorrow morning, two of the brightest planets in the solar system — Venus and Jupiter — will meet one another in the southeastern sky to form a gorgeous dawn conjunction, Space is reporting.
According to the media outlet, both planets have embarked on an east-bound journey in the sky, drawing closer together since the beginning of January. The third week of the month will bring them closer than ever, as Venus and Jupiter cozy up in the pre-dawn sky to offer a splendid “double planet” appearance.
In fact, the brilliant Jupiter and the dazzling Venus — which is the brightest of all eight planets — will share the sky on multiple occasions during the week, appearing together on several dates, all centered around January 22.
While Jupiter starts off lower in the sky, “Venus’ faster motion will cause it to catch, and then overtake, the more distant planet,” explains Joe Rao, a sky-watching columnist for Space.
Tuesday’s “double planet” event will begin a few hours after midnight, with Venus and Jupiter sliding in at only 2.4 degrees from one another. This is the equivalent of nearly five times the apparent width of the full moon, writes Rao. For comparison, note that the width of your fist, held at arm’s length, roughly corresponds to 10 degrees.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) January 21, 2019
The big event is expected to be visible on the southeastern horizon at around 4:30 a.m. local time. The great news is that you won’t need a telescope to watch the two planets come together in the pre-dawn sky. Just grab your binoculars, head out to a dark, secluded viewing spot — away from the city lights — and take in the grand spectacle as Jupiter Venus settles into the upper left of Jupiter.
“Jupiter will shine brilliantly, at magnitude -1.8, yet it will appear only one-eleventh as bright as Venus, which will gleam at magnitude -4.4 (lower magnitudes are brighter).”
Although Venus and Jupiter will come extremely close to one another during tomorrow’s conjunction, the two planets actually orbit the sun at a vast distance from each other.
Venus — the third smallest planet in the system — floats some 73 million miles from Earth. Meanwhile, the gas giant Jupiter — the system’s largest planet — is flung at nearly 4.5 times the distance, cruising through space at 558 million miles away from Earth.
Even though the “double planet” effect is just an illusion, you won’t want to miss the Venus and Jupiter conjunction tomorrow morning. That’s because we’ll have to wait another 10 months for the two planets to come together in the sky again.
“After Tuesday’s conjunction, Venus and Jupiter will next get together in the evening sky late next fall, on November 24. After that, we’ll have to wait until April 20, 2022 (morning sky) and March 2, 2023 (evening sky) for the next set of Venus-Jupiter conjunctions.”