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Venus and Jupiter

August 25, 2016

The two brightest objects in the night other than the Moon are getting ready to slide past each other in the early evening sky. Unfortunately, they’re so low in the sky that they’re tough to see, especially from the northern tier of states. But if you have a clear horizon, and you look at just the right time, you should be able to pick them out.

The brighter of the two is Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor. It passed behind the Sun as seen from Earth in early June, and remained hidden in the Sun’s glare for weeks. It’s beginning to emerge from that glare. But thanks to the relative motions of Venus and Earth, it’s a slow process. The brilliant planet is making little progress from night to night.

The other bright light is Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. It’s been in great view for months. But it’s getting ready to pass behind the Sun, so it’s dropping toward the Sun in a hurry.

The two worlds are due west about a half-hour after sunset, when there’s still plenty of color in the sky. They’re only a few degrees above the horizon, so any trees or buildings will blot them out. They’re easier to see from the southern tier of states because they climb into the sky at a little better angle.

Tonight, Jupiter is close to the upper left of Venus. On Saturday, they’ll stand almost atop each other. And after that, Jupiter will drop lower each day while Venus climbs higher, ready to put on a better show this fall and winter.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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