You are here

Venus and Jupiter

July 2, 2015

The Twitter-verse is likely to be filled with reports of UFOs about now — a pair of brilliant lights in the western evening sky. Those lights aren’t the first wave of an alien invasion, though. Instead, they’re Venus and Jupiter. Venus is the brighter of the two, with Jupiter quite close to its right.

Despite their appearance, the two planets aren’t close to each other at all — they just happen to line up in the same direction as seen from Earth. Venus is more than 45 million miles away, while Jupiter is about a dozen times farther.

Venus is always the brightest object in the night sky other than the Moon. That’s because it’s usually pretty close to us, and it’s covered by clouds that reflect a lot of sunlight into space.

Jupiter is usually the next-brightest object in the night sky, but not always. It’s always bright because of the combination of its size, its distance, and the amount of sunlight it reflects. But Jupiter fades a bit when it’s near its farthest point from Earth, as it is now. That can allow Mars and Mercury to outshine it — but only when those worlds are at their best, which isn’t the case right now.

So Venus and Jupiter reign as the brightest points of light in the night sky. They’re side by side the next couple of evenings, although the gap between them will be a little wider tomorrow night. After that, Venus will pull away from Jupiter — putting extra air between these identified objects in the evening sky.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

Get Premium Audio

Listen to today's episode of StarDate on the web the same day it airs in high-quality streaming audio without any extra ads or announcements. Choose a $8 one-month pass, or listen every day for a year for just $30.