The most dazzling astronomical event of January is almost upon us. The conjunction of Venus and Saturn will take place on Sunday, January 22. The two objects will be so close to each other – less than a degree apart – that even with a small telescope you will be able to see them in the same field of view.
However, you don’t need a telescope to spot them as they will be the closest observable with the naked eye planetary pairing of the year. Like Elphaba, if you care to find them look to the western sky. About an hour after sunset, they will be located slightly away from the Sun, with Saturn just above Venus, but they shouldn’t be difficult to spot given how bright Venus is right now.
We are also lucky that the Moon is not going to ruin the show. On January 21, there will be the closest new Moon since the Middle Ages, so you should be able to catch just a sliver of the waxing Moon just underneath the two planets.
Planetary conjunctions make planets appear close together while they are at an enormous distance from each other and us. Venus is currently over 230 million kilometers (143 million miles) from our planet. Saturn is 1.6 billion kilometers (994 million miles) from us.