On Wednesday, you can see two of the brightest planets in the night sky come together.
If you’re looking toward the west after sunset, you’ll be able to see two bright “stars” in the sky: Those are actually Jupiter and Venus, and they’ve been getting closer and closer every night.
“It is an apparent close approach from our perspective, as the planets are in fact hundreds of millions of kilometres apart,” said Paul Delaney, professor emeritus with York University’s department of physics and astronomy.
“Nonetheless, winter sky watchers will have noticed the steady approach of these planets over the last several weeks. It peaks on March 1 — a great photo opportunity.”
Venus — often referred to as the “evening star” or “morning star” depending on where it is in the sky — is the brightest of the two and can be found low in the west.
Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, can be found just above and to the left of Venus.
How and when to see them
One of the best things about conjunctions is that you don’t need binoculars or telescopes to see them. If you do happen to have a pair of binoculars, however, you can get a great closeup view of the pair.
“Venus and Jupiter will be within about half a degree (or the width of the full moon) together in the sky,” said Elaina Hyde, director of York University’s Allan I Carswell Observatory.
“This means with most binoculars, you will be able to see them together.”
What makes it even more interesting is that you can also see four of Jupiter’s brightest moons. And if you take a look through a pair of binoculars over several nights, you will be able to see how the moons move night after night.
On Wednesday, however, three of the moons will be visible to the left of Jupiter, beginning with Io (closest to the planet), followed by Ganymede and then Callisto.
“At magnitude –2.1 and –4, the planets Venus and Jupiter are two of our brightest objects to see in the night sky,” Hyde said in an email.
“Venus and Jupiter are somewhat common conjunctions, occurring about once a year, but if you have clear skies it should still be a very fun object to view.”
Delaney recommended people watch the planets a few days before and after the close conjunction on March 1, as it illustrates just how the planets move as they orbit the sun.
If your area doesn’t have clear skies on Wednesday, Hyde said the observatory plans to livestream images of the event on its YouTube channel, weather permitting. The Virtual Telescope Project will also be hosting a livestream. You can also check your local astronomy clubs for any observing sessions.
“Any time the brightest planets, as seen from Earth, ‘get together,’ it is worth the look,” said Delaney. “While these planets do enter conjunction reasonably often (every few years), I never tire of watching their dance with respect to the background stars.”