Have you been busy with eclipse preparations the past week? Tonight’s finally the night. But I wanted to alert you to another stunning little show happening about 4 hours after the eclipse ends. Just before the start of dawn and continuing into dawn, Venus and Jupiter make a remarkable sight together in the southeastern sky. The two planets will be closest on the morning of Jan. 22, when they’re separated by just 2.4°, but they’ll be close throughout the coming week.
I got up to see them this morning. I’ll admit I was fearful of spending much time in –20° F temperatures with a wind to boot, but I survived with a smile on my face. Sister Venus and Brother Jupiter were a-m-a-z-i-n-g! You can watch them slide past each other at a steady pace one morning to the next between about 6 and 7 a.m. I brought out my telescope at the end for a look. Venus magnified 76 times glared like a smaller version of the half-moon; Jupiter displayed its two most prominent stripes, the Northern and Southern Equatorial Belts along with three moons.
The animation shows the opposing motion of the two planets. Venus is moving in the direction of the sun or down and left toward the southeastern horizon. Jupiter is headed higher in the sky due to Earth motion around the sun, which causes stars and planets to drift up from the eastern horizon and move westward with the seasons. The twain meet on Tuesday morning and then part ways.
Planet meet-and-greets happening regularly. Venus and Saturn will come equally close in a little less than a month on Feb. 18. Using Venus, a brilliant and easily identifiable planet, we can spot others with which we may not be so familiar. Hope you have clear skies for the eclipse and this dawn delight.