Venus And Jupiter Will Appear To Merge And Form A "Double Star" Tonight

Astrophotography Panorama Test Shot. Benh LIEU SONG/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On June 30, two astronomical objects are destined to meet: The planet named after the Goddess of love, Venus, and the planet named after the God of Thunder, Jupiter. On Earth, they will appear so close together that they will look like a dramatic "double star." 

These two planets have been gradually approaching each other for the last few weeks, creeping toward their closest point: 1/3° apart. That's close enough to be able to cover them with the tip of your pinky finger with an outstretched arm. In reality, they will be around 670 million kilometers (416 million miles) apart in space. 

The planets will also look like they're of a similar size, but Jupiter is actually the largest planet in our solar system and Venus is smaller than Earth. It is thanks to their relative distances that they appear to be of a similar size when peered at from Earth.

From left to right, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Lunar and Planetary Institute.

This phenomenon will be visible to the naked eye in the Western sky. If you have a pair of binoculars handy, or, better yet, a telescope, you can have a peek at the pair and hopefully even see Jupiter's four moons.

This converging in the sky is known as a conjunction. A conjunction between Jupiter and Venus is not unusual; the duo were last seen close together in the sky on August 18, 2014.

Fortunately, if you miss this sighting and you missed the one in 2014, Venus and Jupiter have scheduled another date for the morning of October 26, 2015. On this day, they will be separated by 1°. And if you still can't see this meeting, then next year, on August 27, the planets will reunite once again. Here they will be separated by a stunning 0.1°.

Night Skies: Moon, Venus, Jupiter In Tight Company. Taken in 2008. George M. Groutas/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Header image: Benh LIEU SONG/Flickr

Central Image: George M. Groutas/Flickr

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