Update on June 30: Tonight is the night! If skies are clear, you will be able to see Venus and Jupiter get friendly in the western evening sky. Here in D.C. we have storms in the late afternoon forecast, but by 9 p.m. we could see the clouds clear out enough for at least a glimpse of these two coming within 1/3 a degree of each other.
From June 16:
Turn off your television, scuttle your porch light and go outside. For the next two weeks, the duo Venus and Jupiter perform an amazing, daily cosmic show in the western evening sky after sunset.
Like a planetary Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, these two appear to move closer each night, so by June 30 they’re within one-third of a degree.
You’ll be able to see the show even from the bright lights of a metro area. But, if you can get away from the glare, the brilliant Venus, the large gaseous Jupiter and the double-star Regulus in the constellation Leo seemed to form a line in the sky on Monday night in the west at dusk. Venus and Jupiter are bright enough to find at dusk, but you’ll have a better chance to catch Regulus as the sky grows dark.
Earth’s neighbor Venus appears at -4.5 magnitude now, which is very bright. The planet Jupiter appears at -1.8 magnitude, which is a robust brightness as well. The more negative the number, the brighter the object.
By Wednesday (June 17), Venus and Jupiter are within 8 degrees on the azimuth (the degree points along the horizon) and on Thursday (June 18), they’re slightly closer.
The weekend offers up a photogenic, extraterrestrial treat. The faint wisp of a crescent moon, which is three days old, approaches Venus on Friday (June 19) to form an isosceles triangle with Venus and Jupiter. By this weekend, Venus will be a at -4.6 magnitude, the brightest Venus can ever appear in the sky, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
On Saturday night, June 20, the young waxing, crescent moon has moved to near Jupiter.
For the first evening of astronomical summer – Sunday, June 21 – the moon becomes slightly more plump and scoots by Regulus. Astronomy and space web site slooh.com will cover the summer solstice live June 21, starting at noon Eastern Time, when the sun seems to touch the Tropic of Cancer and reaches the highest point in the Northern Hemisphere’s sky.
Jupiter and Venus shift to within kissing distance by Tuesday, June 23, and on Saturday, June 27, those planets are less than two degrees of one another for several days.
On Tuesday June 30, the vivacious Venus and large Jupiter are with one-third of a degree of each other. On July 1, four-tenths of one degree separate Venus and Jupiter in the western sky at dusk – and that distance grows to a full degree on July 2. The two planets sink into the horizon during July and separate by about 6.4 degrees by the end of next month.
Incidentally, in the eastern U.S., the moon becomes officially full on July 1 at 10:20 p.m., according to the Naval Observatory. July’s second full moon — yes, the so-called “blue moon” — rises July 31.
After gazing toward Venus and Jupiter, swing around to the southeastern heavens to catch Saturn’s evening show. With wide open rings, the ringed planet rises around 6 p.m. now, and is high in the southeast (zero magnitude, bright) as dark falls.