As Venus emerges from the sun’s glare from its superior conjunction, Jupiter is heading toward its solar conjunction in late November 2019. Venus passes Jupiter in a second conjunction between the two planets during this appearance of Jupiter that started late in 2018.
Venus is brighter in our sky because it is closer to Earth, so it appears larger in the sky than Jupiter. Clouds cover this nearby planet and they reflect over 75% of the sunlight that hits them. Farther Jupiter reflects about 50% of the sunlight that reaches its clouds. The result is that Venus is about 3 times brighter than Jupiter, the two brightest “stars” in the southwest.
Here’s how to see the event
The passing of these two planets is a slow moving show that occurs over several nights. First, find a clear horizon in the southwest, free from trees, houses, buildings, and other possible obstructions.
In the charts that follow, several of them are displayed for a time interval after sunset. Use local sources for the time of your sunset. The U.S. Naval Observatory has an online calculator that displays a year of sunrises and sunsets. Enter your state and city into Form A on the website. For readers outside the U.S., enter your longitude and latitude in Form B for your yearly table. Click here.
Start looking for Venus and Jupiter about 30 minutes after sunset. A binocular may help with the initial identification of the two planets. After that first observation go outside at about the same time each evening.
While low in the sky, Venus is the brightest object in the southwest. If you live near a busy airport, the planet’s visual intensity rivals lights on airplanes. Wait for a minute, you’ll see the airplane move through the region. Venus will seem to hang there. Jupiter is not as bright, the second brightest starlike point of light to Venus’ upper left. Each evening until November 24, Venus gets closer to Jupiter.
Begin looking in late October when the moon is near Venus.
The moon makes its first appearance with Venus on October 29. Thirty minutes after sunset, the moon appears to the upper left of Venus, only 4° up in the southwest with bright Jupiter to the upper left of the pair. The moon is 1.8 days old, past its New phase, and 4.4% illuminated. The moon appears with Jupiter two evenings later (October 31).
On November 13, thirty minutes after sunset, the Venus – Jupiter gap is over 10°. (Your fist, at arm’s length, is about 10 degrees from the knuckle of your thumb to the knuckle of your pinky finger.) Venus is 6° up in the southwest. Look for the planets each clear evening during the next several evenings.
In about a week, the gap closes between the planets. On November 19 their separation is about 5°. About 45 minutes after sunset, Venus is 4° up in the southwest.
The Venus continues to close in on Jupiter. The separations until the conjunction:
- Nov 20, 3.9°;
- Nov 21, 2.8°;
- Nov 22, 2.1°;
- Nov 23, 1.5°, Venus is to the lower left of Jupiter. The pair is nearly as close as they are tomorrow evening.
On the evening of November 24, Venus and Jupiter appear closest! Forty-five minutes after sunset, Venus, nearly 7° up in the southwest, is 1.4° to the lower left of Jupiter. The separation has the same distance as three times the moon’s apparent size in the sky. Not the actual size, but the size the moon appears in the sky. The planets appear close together in the sky, but Venus and Jupiter are over 430 million miles apart, over 4 times the earth’s distance from the sun.
Now watch Venus appear to separate and move away from Jupiter. The separations after conjunction:
- Nov 25, 2°, Venus is to the left of Jupiter;
- Nov 26, 2.8°;
- Nov 27, 3.7°, Venus is to the upper left of Jupiter;
- Nov 28, 4.7°
Next Venus moves toward a conjunction with Saturn on December 10.
Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions, 2021-2024
Conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter are frequent, but approximately a year apart beginning with a difficult-to-see conjunction in 2021. The following table provides explanation of the upcoming meetings.
|February 11, 2021||26’||Morning||This pairing is very difficult to see in the eastern sky as the planets rise in bright twilight just 25 minutes before sunrise.|
|April 30, 2022||29’||Morning||The planets rise in the eastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise. In separation, this rivals the gap of the June 2015 conjunction, although it is lower in the sky.|
|March 1, 2023||32’||Evening||This conjunction rivals the June 2015 pairing, with the planets high in the west after sunset, setting 2 hours, 30 minutes after the sun.|
|May 23, 2024||15’||Morning||This pairing is impossible for casual observers to see as it occurs when the planets are nearly behind the sun hidden in the solar glare.|