The two brightest planets in the February night sky, Venus and Jupiter, are getting closer to one another every day this month. The morning star and the gas giant have been blazing brightly in the western sky after sunset for the entire month of February. As they approach a rare planetary conjunction on March 1, 2023, the planets get closer every evening in the western sky. A conjunction, or the appearance of two stars in the same area of the sky at the same time, will take place on this day between 1.5 and 2 hours after sunset. On March 1, Venus will set at 8:40 p.m. IST and Jupiter will do the same, according to timeanddate.com.
What is a conjunction?
NASA describes a conjunction as a celestial event in which two planets, a planet and the Moon, or a planet and a star appear close to one another in the Earth’s night sky. Conjunctions between planets in the Solar System are common because they roughly orbit the Sun in the same plane, known as the ecliptic plane, and consequently follow paths across the sky.
The Venus-Jupiter Conjunction in detail
According to the Edelman Planetarium at Rowan University, Venus and Jupiter will be 32 arcminutes apart on March 1 due to the planetary conjunction. 32 arcminutes are nearly equivalent to half a degree since an arcminute is equal to 1/60 of a degree. This is comparable to a full Moon’s breadth. Using a telescope, one may see three of the four Galilean moons orbiting Jupiter as well as the gibbous phase of Venus. When viewed from Earth, Venus is farther distant and appears smaller during the gibbous phase. The four biggest moons orbiting Jupiter are known as the Galilean moons.
If there is good visibility or air turbulence, it may be possible to observe Jupiter’s cloud bands. Jupiter and Venus will look like two spots that are very near to one another. It is not necessary to need a telescope or a set of binoculars to see the duo in the western sky an hour after sunset. Jupiter and Venus will both be brighter than all the stars during the conjunction, with Jupiter blazing at -2.1 magnitude and Venus at -4.0 magnitude. Given that the atmospheric conditions are favorable, one can see Jupiter and Venus’ conjunction in the night sky because they will both be very bright.
Why do Jupiter and Venus seem to be so bright?
Venus, which is quite close to Earth and has a size and density similar to our own, is covered in highly reflective clouds that effectively reflect sunlight. Venus seems bright to people on Earth due to these characteristics. Jupiter seems brilliant because of its size in the Earth Sky. The gas giant, which is 11 times wider than Earth, is the solar system’s largest planet.