In case you’re the only person on Earth who hasn’t heard about it yet, Venus and Jupiter will be in conjunction on March 15th, 2012, passing within 3° of each other. The two planets have been getting closer and closer in the sky for the last month, and now it’s time to see them side-by-side. Venus is the higher, brighter object, and Jupiter is the lower dimmer one.
Of course, Venus and Jupiter aren’t actually close to one another in the sky. They’re really separated by millions of kilometres. But from our perspective here on Earth, we see the two objects closely lined up. That’s a conjunction.
On March 15th, 2012 at 10:37 UTC, Venus and Jupiter reach 3° distance from one another. That’s approximately 6 times the width of the full Moon.
And in case you’re wondering, the conjunction will be visible from everywhere on Earth: from Australia to Canada, from Japan to Chile. The two planets will brighten in the West shortly after sunset. Since Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest objects, they’ll be visible even in the most light polluted cities.
As a special bonus, the planet Mars is also high and bright in the sky, visible as that bright red “star” further to the East. Mars recently reached its closest point to Earth, known as opposition. Mars won’t be this close and bright for two more years.
Although 3° sounds close, they can actually get much closer. In October 26, 2015, for example, the two planets will only be 1° apart. But this is one of the best conjunctions we’ll see for a few years because the two planets are so high in the sky after the Sun sets.
We’d love to see your pictures of the conjunction. Please email them to [email protected], and we’ll post them in a few days.