There are few better, or more convenient, celestial sights than two bright planets appearing to “kiss” in twilight. That’s exactly what will happen this weekend as the two brightest planets in the night sky, Venus and Jupiter, appear to pass very close to each other just after sunset on Saturday and Sunday.
Although the two planets shine brightly together into next week—which is good news if clear skies don’t strike this weekend where you are—the window for seeing this rare close planetary conjunction at its best is rather narrow.
For those in the northern hemisphere, the event will be best viewed about 45 minutes after sunset on Sunday, November 24, 2019 when Venus and Jupiter will appear super-close to each other just above the southwest horizon. In fact, Venus and Jupiter will appear to be just 1.5° apart on Saturday and 1.4° apart on Sunday according to When The Curves Line Up. It’s the closest two planets have appeared to get to each other in all of 2019.
You’ll need to be quick because Venus and Jupiter will set about 45 minutes after sunset. So, if sunset is about 4.30 p.m. (check the exact times for where you are) begin looking in the southwest sky just after 5 p.m. for an hour or so as twilight deepens.
2019 has been a good year for close conjunctions of bright planets, with Venus and Jupiter super-close in January, and Venus and Saturn in February, but this second conjunction in 2019 of Venus and Jupiter is the best of the year. However, it’s not the final conjunction; December 10 will see Venus and Saturn appear just 1.8° apart, again in the post sunset night sky.
A “conjunction” is when two planets (or other celestial objects) appear to be close to each other in the sky, as seen from Earth. Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective. Venus and Jupiter will actually be 695 million miles from each other on Sunday, but to us on Earth, they will appear to be just 1.4º apart.
All planets orbit the sun on more-or-less the same plane, called the ecliptic (the apparent path of the sun through our daytime sky). Venus, as an inner planet, appears to us on Earth to ping back and forth around the sun. In fact, every eight years, Venus goes around the Sun 13 times. So it’s inevitable that it will, at some point, appear to be close to the outer planets, Jupiter included.
Venus is much closer to Earth—about 219 million kilometres distant from Earth on Sunday—so much, much brighter than Jupiter, which will be 914 million kilometers distant, and is much less reflective. What’s more, this event is happening close to the western horizon, which tells us that Jupiter is appearing to get closer to the sun.
The giant planet will soon disappear from view, leaving a bright Venus to dominate the post-sunset night skies through winter and spring. A long season with Venus, the “Evening Star,” beckons, but not until a this weekend’s extra-special celestial “kiss” with Jupiter.
If you miss this evening conjunction of Venus and Jupiter—and you can look for it all next week, too—you’ll have to wait until 2023 for the next one.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.