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Kissing planets

Kissing planets

ASTRONOMY ·

On the 1st March, Jupiter and Venus will appear to meet and form one, very bright, star

Ken Campbell

Friday, 24 February 2023, 11:23

The Sun, Moon and all the planets move across the sky in a very narrow band known as the Ecliptic. It is along this band that all the constellations of the Zodiac can be found. Because they all stay along the Ecliptic then it is sometimes possible for two or more planets to come very close together in what is known as a conjunction. Of course, they are not really close together but many millions of miles apart - it is just a line of sight effect.

If you look towards the west just after sunset, you will see two very bright 'stars', they are not stars, the lower one is Venus and the upper one is Jupiter. Now keep checking on them over the next few nights and you will see them getting noticeably closer together each evening, until at 7pm on Wednesday 1st March they will appear to meet and will be so close together that it will appear as one very bright star as they kiss! They may have to stretch a bit for the kiss as Venus is 131 million miles (210 million km) from Earth, while Jupiter is more than four times farther away at 530 million miles (853 million km).

If you have binoculars or a telescope, both planets will be in the same field of view. It is very rare to see two planets come as close as this and with Venus and Jupiter being the two brightest planets it should be very spectacular indeed. Jupiter will be shining at magnitude -2.1, that's twice as bright as the brightest star Sirius, while Venus will be blazing at -4.0, that's nearly 6 times brighter than Jupiter. If you miss it you will have to wait another 24 years to see the two planets this close together again. Let's hope for clear skies!

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