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Thursday, March 15, 2012

See Venus and Jupiter after sunset!

For the next few nights Venus and Jupiter will be doing a slow, graceful pas de deux in the Western sky after sunset. They're high enough that they'll be visible for a few hours, but it's a special treat to see them in the evening twilight. With a little luck, good eyesight, and a good memory for their positions in the sky relative to the Sun, you might just be able to see them almost anytime during the day!

Jupiter and Venus over Nanticoke, 6:52 PM, March 14, 2012

Astronomy buffs of a certain age may look at this pairing and recall a similar pairing over thirty years ago: the great Triple Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn of 1981.  This was a fantastically beautiful event that took over six months to unfold, as Jupiter and Saturn appeared in the Eastern sky after sunset in the early months of the year, drew close together, switched positions, moved backwards, moved close together again, and then gradually pulled apart, all the while marching together slowly to the West in the sort of (apparent) orbital ballet that had the ancients (and not-so-ancients) throwing their hands up in despair and deciding that things like epicycles made a lot of sense. (If you missed it - well, I recommend keeping yourself healthy if you'd like to see the next one, which takes place in 2238-2239.) For reasons that are really not hard to understand, this event is also known as a Greatest Conjunction.

This isn't that. Far from it. This conjunction will be done in days, not months. Conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter aren't that rare. Still, it's a beautiful sight, and one that's worth taking a few seconds out of your day to glance at and go "wow."

2 comments:

shreya said...

I saw them yesterday night while coming back from my dinner.
I stay in India so they are even visible here.

D.B. Echo said...

Fantastic! The positions should be a little different because of our different latitudes, but not so much different as it would look from the Southern Hemisphere. It always amazes me when Australians can see a comet that is very close to the sun, but Americans can't see it through the glare!

Nice to hear from you!