Venus-Jupiter Conjunction, March 15th, 2012

by Fraser Cain on March 13, 2012

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The two conjunctions. Image credit: Stellarium

The two conjunctions. Image credit: Stellarium


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.

Venus/Jupiter/Moon conjunction 2012 Image credit: Fraser Cain

Venus/Jupiter/Moon conjunction 2012 Image credit: Fraser Cain


The sky show will continue, and on March 25th, 2012, the New Moon will join the pair again to create a triple conjunction. Another great photo opportunity. Here’s our photo gallery of images Universe Today readers sent in during the last Moon/Venus/Jupiter conjunction.

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 info@universetoday.com, and we’ll post them in a few days.

About 

Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

StargazerJohn March 13, 2012 at 12:49 AM

Just checked Starry Night Pro 6.2.3 and it indicates the closest approach is NOT on Mar 15 but Mar 13. For Owen Sound ON Canada at 8:33 pm DST the respective separations are 3°29’50″ vs 2°59’55″ . This is about 30 min difference. Also checked this for Melbourne AU and the two are again closer on Mar 13 not 15. Please resolve this discrepancy as two days makes a difference.
John H.

Iman Mohamed Mohd March 13, 2012 at 6:29 AM

wonderfull i lije to see venus in the sky and when jupiter join then only happy things willbe in the air and peace miht also happen in the life of many as countries,,,i hope ,,,meditation is the best to bring the cosmos energy on earth in us ..thankyou ,i love you i respect you

Keith Butler March 13, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Oh, I just gotta ask this…….
I’m doing my taxes (#$%&@) now but would like to see someone more mathmatically inclined do the numbers that show the orbital positions for the two conjunctions. I started to draw out a picture of this but couldn’t seem to get my numbers to cross the same way my eyes did when picturing one planet in a closer orbit than earth conjuncting (?) with one in a much farther orbit than either. Then add the moon! I get lost.

John Sheff March 13, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Actually, they will be closest on the evening of March 13th. They will be in conjunction on the 15th, as you mention – but technically, conjunction refers to the instant they have the same Right Ascension. That does indeed happen on the 15th, but they are actually slightly closer to each other – just under 3 degrees apart – on Tuesday night. By the 15th their separation will be just over 3 degrees.

Robert frederking March 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM

Astronomical Calendar by Guy Ottewell has exactly this diagram in it.

danangel March 14, 2012 at 3:17 AM

Finally, a clear night and the show is great in the North Carolina Mtns. Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Orion, the Seven Sisters, Ursa Major and Minor, Polaris, Sirius, Betelgeuse, etc, etc. It is great and the spring peepers are providing a background chorus. Hope the 15th is this clear. Get out and enjoy!

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