Monday, March 12, 2012

Jupiter and Venus Conjunction 2012

The night of March 13/14 will be the night of the closest conjunction of the two-brightest night-sky planets, Jupiter and Venus. Both shining at around -4 and -2 degrees magnitude, Jupiter and Venus are and will be a spectacle of the night sky over the next few days not only for their beauty, but also for their "science" behind them, the conjunction, that is.

Astronomers call this event a conjunction, or the close passing of two astronomical objects as seen from a vantage point on earth; if you live on one side of the globe, though, the event will most probably look different than on the other side. For example, people in Asia might see the planets conjunct at a different angle and us here in America. Jupiter and Venus, as seen from the United States, will conjunct only three degrees apart from each other, and it is possible that both can be blotted out with an outstretched arm. MSN notes, though, that as time passes on, the degrees of the two planets varies, "Wednesday night, for example, they'll be separated by just 3.1 degrees. By Thursday, the gap between them will have extended to about 3.5 degrees. Somewhat confusingly, Jupiter and Venus also technically come into conjunction on Thursday, when they line up in another set of celestial coordinates (though they will appear farther apart then to observers on the ground than they did Tuesday)."

That conjunction on Thursday will rather be like the one on Tuesday night, but why? How can two objects be close to each other on two different dates, after they started to pull away from each other again? The answer is simple, and it was covered earlier in this article: perspective. It depends on where you look on earth that these planets will be closest, you can read more from the link above. In the meantime, enjoy Venus and Jupiter, they'll only remain in close conjunction for a while! [The first image is for March 14, the second for March 15]

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