A record Venus-Jupiter conjunction: 27 Aug. 2016

2016 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction. Simulation for Rome, 27 Aug. 2016, 20:15 local time

2016 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction. Simulation for Rome, 27 Aug. 2016, 20:15 local time

The sky, once again, is ready to impress us with something unique. Next 27 August, planets Venus and Jupiter will have an extremely close conjunction: they will show very close each other, so be ready.

Venus and Jupiter approaching their conjunction - Rome, 26 Aug. 2016

Venus and Jupiter approaching their conjunction – Rome, 26 Aug. 2016

This conjunction is a true record: the minimum angular distance between the two involved planets will be less than 4′ arcminutes, that is only 1/8th of the angular size of the lunar disc. A quick check suggests this is the closest conjunction we will see at least for the next 40 years.

2016 Venus-Jupiter conjunction: a close up. 27 Aug. 2016, 22:30 UT

2016 Venus-Jupiter conjunction: a close up. 27 Aug. 2016, 22:30 UT

Planets, from the Ancient Greek ἀστήρ πλανήτης astēr planētēs, or πλάνης ἀστήρ plánēs astēr, which means “wandering star“, are continuously moving across the zodiacal stars, each with a different motion. The faster Venus, now back in the evening sky, will reach Jupiter, slowly sinking in the solar glare, at  the end of its visibility season. At some point, the two planets will be extremely “close” each other. Of course, this is only an apparent, prospective meeting: Jupiter is much farther than Venus: 953 millions of km vs. 232 millions of km from us, respectively.

Unfortunately, this rare Venus-Jupiter conjunction is happening with both the planets quite low in a bright sky, soon after sunset. The solar elongation of the planets is 22 degrees. A binocular will be very useful to spot this unique encounter; furthermore, it is mandatory to have a clear horizon on the west, so the best observing site would be at the sea.

Please note: the Sun can very seriously damage your eyes, even with a casual sight, so please wait for the Sun to set before you start exploring that patch of the sky looking for the planets.

Venus and Jupiter, partly covered by a tiny cloud, are enriching the sight of the skyline in Rome: 29 June 2015

Venus and Jupiter, partly covered by a tiny cloud, are enriching the sight of the skyline in Rome: 29 June 2015

The close conjunction will be at its best on 27 Aug. 2016, around 22:30 Universal Time. This will make people in most of Southern America quite happy. Of course, everyone will have the best moment to spot this wonderful cosmic happening. As we said, the observing conditions for this Venus-Jupiter conjunction, especially for those living north of the equator, are quite critical, so it is important to carefully plan the observations.

Considering this extreme proximity, Venus and Jupiter can be imaged/seen together with powerful enough telescopes. This will makes possible to capture both a gibbous Venus  and Jupiter’s satellites, hardly with some details on the latter. But please don’t be obsessed to capture images: give you a chance to SEE this wonderful, cosmic gift.

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