After dominating the evening sky for the latter half of 2020, this year has so far been almost devoid of planets. Sure, there’s Mars high in the southern sky after dark, but it’s fading fast.
Cue a return to night skies—if only briefly—for giant planet Jupiter, which will this week pass very closely to Venus.
A close pairing of planets is always worth seeing, if only for its rarity. However, this one is going to be rather tricky to see. Up for a challenge?
The trouble with this “conjunction” of the fifth and second planets from the Sun is that the action takes place just before sunrise. That means rising early for this exquisite celestial sight.
For those in the northern hemisphere the Sun is still rising relatively late. Add to that the fact that many people are working from home and can, for once, go looking for night sky sights whenever they please, and we have a rare Jupiter-Venus conjunction that should be possible for more people to enjoy.
When is the Jupiter-Venus conjunction?
The action will happen just before sunrise on Thursday, February 11, 2021. Find out the sunrise time where you are be ready to observe the two planets about 30 minutes beforehand.
Where is the Jupiter-Venus conjunction?
At their closest, Jupiter ad Venus will appear to be separated by just 0.4º. They will be situated on the southeastern horizon for a short time before the Sun rises and bleaches the sky.
You’ll need an unobstructed view, such as an ocean, or some height. You may also need some binoculars.
Look slightly above and to the right of Jupiter and Venus and you may glimpse much dimmer Saturn.
What is a ‘conjunction’ and why do they happen?
It’s the apparent close passing of two objects in the night sky. Although you might think the chances of two planets appearing to almost bump into each other are ultra-remote, that’s not the case because all the planets in the Solar System orbit the Sun on the same plane.
That plane is called the ecliptic, which is also the Sun’s path through the daytime sky. It’s therefore inevitable that, at some point, the planets will appear to pass each other costly in Earth’s night sky.
When is the next planetary conjunction?
Though Venus will quickly pull away from Jupiter, the gas giant will soon get close to both Saturn and Mercury. From Thursday, February 25 through Sunday, February 28, 2021 they will be in a loose alignment low on the eastern horizon in the pre-dawn morning skies.
“Planetary trios” like that one do not come about too often—the next one isn’t until April 20, 2026.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
This article is auto-generated by Algorithm Source: www.forbes.com