Friday, November 28, 2008

Venus - Jupiter Conjunction

I have been anticipating all week the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon. The trouble is, the three will come together in the southwest sky late Sunday and into Monday and we'll have clouds and snow by then. So my chance to see their progress is now.
Below is how the two planets were positioned on Sunday, 11/23:

And here (below) is the same shot without the text labels. This picture was taken from our backyard, aimed over the pines that line the southwest corner of the property.

Venus is 94 million miles away and clearly the brighter of the two planets; Jupiter is 540 million miles away. Seen from this perspective, Venus appears to be traveling slightly up and to the left. Given enough time (another week), Venus would be below and to the left of Jupiter. The crescent moon will add itself and make a trio, appearing slightly above and to the left of the two planets.

Moving forward four days (to 11/27), it's pretty clear how far left Venus has moved (above). It's still right and below Jupiter but catching up fast. It will be below Jupiter on 11/30 but I fear the clouds will prevent my seeing it.
This conjunction is not unusual except that it is so high in the sky and so clearly visible. This particularly close alignment won't happen again until November 18, 2052. It is also interesting that the three objects happen to be the three brightest objects in the night sky.
A particularly good simulation of how the three objects are coming together is available on YouTube and you can watch it by clicking here.