For a good part of late winter and early spring, the planets Venus and Jupiter staged a spectacular encounter in the evening sky. And now they’re ready for an encore — this time in the morning sky.
You can’t miss these two worlds because they’re the brightest objects in the night sky other than the Moon, with Venus clearly outranking Jupiter.
As twilight paints the early dawn sky tomorrow, Venus is quite low in the eastern sky, with Jupiter a few degrees to its upper right. Over the next few weeks, both will climb into view earlier, providing more time to enjoy the pairing.
The two planets will also move just slightly closer to each other. Venus won’t be able to overtake its fainter sibling, though, because of their positions in the solar system.
Venus is the second-closest planet to the Sun, so from our perspective it has a limited range away from the Sun. As Venus moves into the dawn sky, it scoots away from the Sun in a hurry. Within weeks, though, its pace slows as our viewing angle to the planet begins to change. Eventually, Venus appears to stop and then reverse direction, moving back toward the Sun.
Jupiter, on the other hand, is outside Earth’s orbit, so it loops all the way across the sky. So as Venus starts to slow down, Jupiter will leave it behind.
That won’t happen for a few weeks, though, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the spectacular pairing of the two brightest points of light in the night sky.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.