Cover Venus and Jupiter with your pinky on June 30, 2015 | Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
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Cover Venus and Jupiter with your pinky on June 30, 2015

BY AMY SAYLE

If you've paid attention to the evening sky recently, you know that the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, appear to be pulling closer together each night.

Venus is that object shining very, very brightly in the west soon after sunset. Jupiter is the less bright (but still bright) object currently positioned just to the upper left of Venus.

On Tuesday, June 30, 2015, these two planets will be at their closest pairing -- only about 1/3 of a degree apart. In this image depicting the view an hour after sunset on June 30, the two planets appear so close together that the planet labels in Stellarium (a software program we use to create sky views) pile up on top of each other (that's Jupiter on top).

Venus and Jupiter (Stellarium image)

 

Let's hope we have clear skies to the west after sunset on June 30, 2015. If so, go outside and stretch your arm out all the way. With just the tip of your pinky finger, you should be able to cover up both planets!

A telescope will show the phase of Venus as a thick crescent, and will reveal four of Jupiter's moons.

In the beginning of July, Venus and Jupiter continue to appear fairly close together. Around mid-July, both planets begin to slip into evening twilight. Of course, Venus and Jupiter are nowhere close together in space. They lie many millions of miles away from each other. They only appear to make a close pairing to our eyes when these planets lie in the same general line of sight from Earth’s point of view.

To learn more about viewing planets and stars this summer, join us for a Summer Skies programs in Morehead's fulldome theater:

  • "Starry Nights: Summer Skies" on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, 7:30-9 p.m. This is the program for you if everyone in your group is an adult (interested teens are welcome, too). If you’ve ever attended a Carolina Skies, it’s sort of like that show, but on steroids.
  • "Star Families: Summer Skies" on Saturday, July 11, 2015, 3:30-4:15 p.m. This is the program to choose if a member of your group is age 12 or younger.

You can register for either program online in advance. Hope to see you there.