How, where, when should the planets align

The planets Venus, left, and Jupiter, right, with three of their moons visible, appear close together in the sky above tree branches after dusk.
Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

  • Jupiter and Venus will appear to almost touch the night sky on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • They are the brightest objects in the sky after the sun and moon, so they are visible to the naked eye.
  • To see this “spring star” planetary conjunction, look west after sunset.

Jupiter and Venus, the brightest planets in the sky, have come closer to each other in recent weeks. This dance in the night sky will climax after sunset this Wednesday and Thursday, as the two planets will appear almost touching – a beautifully bright Jupiter-Venus conjunction.

This planetary conjunction happens about once every 13 months, so this is your only chance to catch the spectacular event this year.

AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Lada calls the Jupiter-Venus convergence the “spring star.”

That’s because March 1 is the first day of meteorological spring, when temperatures historically begin to shift. It differs from astronomical spring, which begins on March 17, which is based on the position of the Earth and the Sun rather than on the weather.

Jupiter and Venus should be visible to the naked eye from almost anywhere on Earth, as long as the weather permits and clouds don’t block your view. In fact, Venus is the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. Jupiter is the fourth brightest, which will make for a spectacular picture during the conjunction.

You don’t want to miss this spring star.

How to spot Jupiter and Venus in the sky

Jupiter (left) and Venus (right) are two of the brightest objects in the sky.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

March 1, look west. Near the horizon, about an hour after sunset, Jupiter and Venus will appear about half a degree apart — that’s the width of a full moon, or about a quarter of an inch’s width at arm’s length, according to the Adler Planetarium.

In other words, extremely close together – so close it can be difficult to tell the two apart. But if you look closely, Venus will be to the right and will appear slightly brighter than Jupiter.

The planets will still be close together next night Thursday, about one degree apart. They will creep away from each other night after night, Venus rising and Jupiter falling towards the horizon and the sun.

If it’s too cloudy and you can’t see it with your own eyes, the Virtual Telescope Project plans to air its telescope view in a live broadcast of the Venus-Jupiter encounter on Wednesday and Thursday.

Just be sure to look up at the sky before 10pm EST or you’ll miss it. Both planets will set behind the horizon a little after 22:00.

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