Venus, Jupiter set for close encounter later on this month
June 18, 2015
Venus and Jupiter began converging during the first two weeks of June, and according to NASA and EarthSky, they were just 10 degrees apart as of Monday. This means that they were so close to each other than you could hide both planets behind the palm of your outstretched hand.
That might sound impressive, but the two worlds are just getting warmed up. By Thursday night, they will be only six degrees apart, and on Friday, the crescent moon will make an appearance, as the three celestial bodies will combine to form a bright isosceles triangle in the sunset sky.
Why does it look like these planets are about to collide?
According to Phil Plait of Slate.com’s Bad Astronomy blog, this phenomenon is possible because the two planets orbit the sun in pretty basically the same plane. This plane also includes Earth, which makes it possible for terrestrial stargazers to watch the planets moving along the same line in the sky as they orbit around the Sun. This line is known as the ecliptic, Plait said.
In truth, the orbits of all of the planets are slightly tilted with respect to each other, meaning that they don’t follow precisely the same line and that they appear to pass one another when viewed from the Earth. In reality, the planets are millions of miles away from each other. From our perspective, however, they appear to be on a virtual collision course.
Don’t feel bad if you miss the show. Plait pointed out that the two planets will be even closer to one another next year, as they will be just four arcminutes apart on August 27. He said that this will be during the daytime hours in the US, but rest assured, the event should be visible with binoculars or a decent telescope. Or you could probably just look for a YouTube video of it.
Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ppuCZR8Mkw