All through the month of June, 2015, sky watchers have been treated to a dazzling display put on by Venus and Jupiter in the western sky at nightfall. As dusk turns into darkness, Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, appears above Jupiter, aligned with Venus and Jupiter. We can see them coming closer together each evening, because of the earth’s alignment with the two planets. In late June/early July, Venus will pass Jupiter. Look for this on the nights of June 30th and July 1st. The planets are actually hundreds of millions of miles apart.
Tuesday night looks like the best chance for a good view in New Albany, though we can hope for a little luck on Wednesday night, also.
This alignment is referred to as Venus-Jupiter conjuncture, and this will be the closest together they will be until August 2016. Venus is the 3rd brightest, Jupiter the 4th brightest bodies seen in Earth’s night sky, so this is a special event for sky watchers, both amateur and professional. The line-of-sight illusion is caused when the orbits of Venus and Jupiter line up on the same side of the sun as seen from Earth. This alignment occurs fairly rarely, because Venus orbits in the sun in 225 days, Earth in 365 and Jupiter in 4,330.
‘To see it you’ll need a clear western horizon, and it will be spectacular in small telescopes and larger binoculars, as you’ll get to see the phase of Venus as well as the moons and major gas,” said Nick Howes, an astronomer working with the Kielder Observatory.