This Week's Amazing Sky: Do You Have Conjunction-itis?

Venus and Jupiter, June 30, 2015


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Everyone loved last Saturday's wonderful meeting of the Moon with Venus and Jupiter. Happily, the sky has one more treat up its sleeve. This conjunction may be even better.

Start this Sunday evening, June 28.  Look into the fading twilight, say at 9:15 or 9:30.  Two brilliant stars side by side.  The most dazzling is Venus, now at its brightest.  It hasn't looked this good in years. Next to it is Jupiter.  They both circle around the Sun of course, but Venus travels so fast that we can actually see its 22 mile-per-second orbital motion.  Sunday evening, Venus is the rightmost member of the pair, but this will change almost overnight.

9 P.M. (EDT) on June 28, 2015: Look towards the west and you'll see the two brightest planets in the night sky converging!
Credit: NASA

Also on Sunday night, look just below the Moon.  That star almost touching the Moon is the planet Saturn.  When has finding Saturn been easier?  If you have any kind of telescope, this is where to point it.  No celestial item is more amazing than those rings.  All it takes is anything over 30x.  Don't bother trying binoculars.  They're not powerful enough.

Fast forward to the next night, Monday, June 29.  Same time, and now Venus and Jupiter are even closer together.  But the dramatic climax happens Tuesday evening, June 30.  Don't miss it.  There in deepening twilight, the two brightest 'stars' in all the heavens hover dramatically close together. 

9 P.M. (EDT) on June 30, 2015: Look up! Venus and Jupiter are a jaw-dropping ⅓ degree apart—less than the diameter of a full Moon!
Credit: NASA

In actuality, Venus floats between us and the Sun while Jupiter is way off in the distance, five times farther away than the Sun. Its nearness explains why Venus appears 10 times brighter, and also the fact that Venus' clouds are the shiniest items in the solar system.  They're more reflective than fresh snow.  Weirdly, they're made of concentrated sulfuric acid droplets. This is a look-don't-touch kind of thing.

If you'd like to squeeze a bit more out of this conjunction, the single star to the left of the planets—not nearly as bright but boasting a pastel blue coloris Regulus, the famous alpha star of Leo the Lion. The show starts Sunday evening. Write and tell us whether you saw all this, and what you thought!

~ By  Bob Berman

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Wondering which bright objects you’re seeing in the night sky? Want to learn about a breathtaking sight coming up? Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, we’ll cover everything under the Sun (and Moon)!

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My family and I was traveling

My family and I was traveling from South Carolina to Kentucky. And the view of the two planets was breathtaking. Had I not read the article recently, I would've know to watch for them. And was able to watch both Saturday and Sunday.

From Chicago....spent the

From Chicago....spent the evening trying to locate the Bethlehem star, but it was too cloudy. Did manage to catch the moon around 11:00 p.m. and it was a beautiful golden color. Eventually it slipped behind the clouds for good. Can see why it is called the Honey Moon.

I have been watching this

I have been watching this with my daughter all weekend along with all the other great happenings that have gone on so far this summer.

I saw the two planets Sunday

I saw the two planets Sunday night, one was so bright it caught my eye and I didn't know what I was looking at, missed a great picture, but I sure will be looking tonight (Tues) it stormed here, but hoping for clear skies!! So interesting and do I understand that the last time this happened was 2000 years ago! So me are saying it will form a star shape!

Great info, thanks! I've been

Great info, thanks! I've been photo documenting these 'wandering stars' each night since mid May and the movement is so obvious! Can't wait for tonight's big event - wishing clear skies for all!

what a great show. I've been

what a great show. I've been watching, but until now i didn't know what I was seeing.

Hi John -- and hello to all

Hi John -- and hello to all you other posters --

   Thanks for your comments. Been enjoying them. I'm so glad you've been observing this great conjunction. Me, we're socked in with rain this Tuesday afternoon here in the mountains, so the rest of you will have to enjoy it for me!

    (sympathy, please)

       Bob B

What a great show. I was

What a great show. I was wondering what those "stars" were--and now I can tell my son. Thanks.

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