Tuesday: Jupiter, Venus to form super star in night sky

By Lynn R. Mitchell

A celestial event this week will take place beginning Tuesday night and continuing through Saturday (see Jupiter, Venus to converge in Star of Bethlehem moment):

Starting on Tuesday, Jupiter and Venus will be so close in the night sky that you could cover them both with the tip of an outstretched finger.

The two planets will be just a third of a degree apart as seen from North America.

“To the eye they’ll look like a double star,” said Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. “Anyone who hasn’t glanced at the evening sky for a while will be surprised by how dramatically tight the pairing is.”

They will be easy to spot as the brightest objects in the sky, after the sun and moon. Venus, appearing as a crescent, will be even brighter than its neighbor. Not far to their upper left, appearing much fainter, is Regulus, the alpha star in the constellation Leo.

They will remain no greater than 2 degrees apart – a thumb’s width at arm’s length – until July 4.

Some have questioned if the planets were aligned in a similar fashion at the time of the birth of Christ. The Star of Bethlehem?

Sky & Telescope Contributing Editor Fred Schaaf points out that this current string of Venus-Jupiter conjunctions closely resembles a similar series between the years 3 and 2 B.C. It has been suggested that their joint appearance came to be known as the Star of Bethlehem.

Monday night’s skies are overcast in my corner of the Shenandoah Valley so hoping to catch this sight tomorrow night.

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