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There’s a nice meetup in the heavens tonight: bright Venus is snuggling up to one of the most famous star clusters, the Pleiades. The Slooh Space Camera is broadcasting a live, real-time feed of the most famous star cluster in the heavens, the Pleiades, meeting up with our nearest and brightest planetary neighbor, Venus. Slooh’s coverage will begin on Wednesday, April 4th starting at 1:30 PM PDT / 4:30 PM EDT / 20:30 UT. (This was originally scheduled for April 3rd, but was rescheduled due to high humidity at Canary Islands observatory off the coast of Africa.) The broadcast can be watched here, or accessed at Slooh’s homepage or by visiting Slooh’s G+ page, where you will be able to see the panel interact live via G+ Hangouts On Air.
If skies are clear, you can see the conjunction for yourself by looking toward the west in the constellation Taurus, after sunset, using binoculars. If you can get images of the event, we’ll post views of them. Share them on Universe Today’s Flickr page.
Here’s some information about the conjunction from Slooh:
The Pleiades, otherwise known as the Seven Sisters, is a beautiful bright blue open star cluster 440 light years from Earth. The relative tightness of the cluster is indicative of its young age as the member stars were formed some 100 million years ago and will probably travel together through space as a bound cluster for another 250 million years before the gravity of the Milky Way breaks up the cluster into individual field stars. The central core radius of the cluster is only about 4.5 light years but the remote outer regions of the cluster may extend out as far as 52 light years from the center. The brighter members of the cluster, which make up the Seven Sisters, are blue stars with surface temperatures of about 20,000 degrees which is four times hotter than our own Sun.
Venus is sometimes called the Earth’s sister planet because they are so close in size. However, Venus is very different in many ways, with an atmosphere almost 100 times thicker than Earth’s, and is composed of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide. Even though it is only slightly closer to the Sun, the surface of Venus averages 900 degrees making it the hottest place in the solar system outside the Sun itself.
While Venus and Pleiades are hundreds of light years apart, they will appear together as neighbors in the same field of view. Venus will pass just below the bright blue star cluster. This incredible event happens only once every eight years.