Opening the curtains at 7 a.m. today, even my wife, who pays little attention to the ways of the planets, noticed the spectacle. Venus and Jupiter shine brilliantly on their own, but see them side to side, well, that’s an entirely different experience.
I took a few photos and looked at each through the telescope — Jupiter with his two dark equatorial belts and four bright moons and half-moon Venus bearing down like a locomotive engine beacon. I followed the pair past sunrise, when Venus was still obvious with the naked eye. Not Jupiter though. For that I needed my 8×40 binoculars. Because Venus is relatively easy to find in the daytime sky, we can use it to spy Jupiter in daylight, too.
The map shows the sky today around 10 a.m. local time. To find Venus, face south, reach a horizontally-held fist to the sun and measure off four and a half “fists” to its upper right. When you spot the planet, focus it in binoculars and look a short distance above and to the left (east) for fainter Jupiter. Venus shines like a blazing star compared to pale, washed-out Jupiter, and you’ll notice that Jupiter shows a disk against the blue sky.
If you have a telescope, Jupiter’s two most prominent features, the north and south equatorial belts, will be visible on close scrutiny. The Venus-Jupiter pair will be almost exactly as close together tomorrow morning but arranged a little differently.
Mars is also undergoing a conjunction with the 4th magnitude star Sigma Leonis. The two were just 20′ or 2/3 of a moon diameter apart today; that increases to one moon diameter (1/2°) tomorrow morning.