Two of the brightest planets in the night sky will collide this weekend – or so it will appear.
Venus and Jupiter will draw near each other in a conjunction, when two or more objects in space appear close together in the sky, says Diana Hannikainen, observing editor at the magazine Sky & Telescope.
“They [will] appear at almost the same position in the sky as viewed from Earth, says Hannikainen. “They’re not really physically close in space, though.”
Jupiter is, after all, about six times farther from the Earth than Venus. But the angle of our sightline from Earth will make them look like next-door neighbors.
Want to catch a glimpse? Hannikainen recommends waking early on Saturday, by 4:45 a.m. or 5 a.m. at the latest, and looking toward the east or southeast.
“If you oversleep … don’t despair,” Hannikainen says. “Jupiter and Venus will still be fairly close in the mornings to come.”
Venus will slowly recede from Jupiter, dropping further towards the horizon. Check out the sky in a couple days, she adds, since Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn will soon form a “beautiful line” that stretches across the east-southeastern horizon.
The Jupiter-Venus conjunction is not a particularly rare event, nor are other planetary conjunctions. In late 2020, for example, Saturn and Venus came as close as they had in hundreds of years for a “Great Conjunction.”
But such frequency doesn’t take away from the conjunction’s beauty, says Hannikainen.
“It’s such a wonderful occasion,” she says. “It’s an accessible, naked-eye sight. Anyone can see it. You don’t need special equipment for it. And that means everyone can get a taste of the thrill of observing a celestial event.”
This segment aired on April 29, 2022.