Kelly Beatty, Sky and Telescope
The two brightest planets are gliding closer together in the early evening sky, and their celestial dance culminates with an ultra-close pairing on June 30th.
Anyone who pays even cursory attention to the evening sky has surely noticed that the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, have been drawing closer together in the west in the evening twilight. At the beginning of June, the two planets were 20° apart in the sky, about twice the width of your fist held at arm’s length. Week by week, Jupiter and the stars behind it have gradually slipped lower in the evening twilight. But Venus, due to its rapid orbital motion around the Sun, has stayed high up.
The resulting slow-motion convergence is setting the stage for a dramatic sky sight. The warm-up act came on June 19th and 20th, when the planetary duo was joined by a thin and lovely crescent Moon. . . .
But now the spectacle is taking an even more dramatic turn — one you just can’t miss. For eight nights beginning June 27th, these two bright planets will be within 2° of each other — close enough to cover both with the thumb of an outstretched hand. In the midst of that weeklong run, on June 30th, Venus and Jupiter will appear so close together — just 1/3° apart — that they’ll look like a tight, brilliant double star in the evening sky. You’ll be able to cover both with the tip of an outstretched pinky finger. Amazing stuff!
Surely, this spectacle must be some kind of omen. Well, yes, it’s a sign from the heavens to get outside and look!
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