Thursday, March 8, 2012

Super Planetary Conjunction

(Click on it to see Jupiter's Moons)
I've been looking forward to this all year!  The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, are coming together for a dramatic planetary conjunction. 

You've probably noticed them in the western sky after sunset.  Venus has been the brighter object lower in the sky.  People often mistake it for a plane or UFO - it's that bright!  Jupiter is dazzling as well, but not as bright as Venus and higher in the sky. 

Each night they appear closer and closer together in the sky, until Monday March 12 and Tuesday March 13 when they will be right next to each other.  After the 13th, Venus will be the higher of the two planets as Jupiter heads off into the sunset. 

Conjunction from the Observatory
They will only appear to be next to each other.  In reality Venus will be about 76 million miles from us while Jupiter will be a whopping 522 million miles distant.  Venus (only 1/11 the diameter of Jupiter) appears brighter because it's that much closer.

There is something mesmerizing about the combination of these two with a gorgeous sunset.  The golden lights of the planets in front of the deep blue March sky is amazing.  Be sure to check them out over the next few weeks and say, "Hi," to the planets!