Photo above: Venus nears Jupiter for a morning conjunction during 2019.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
On February 11, 2021: Venus passes Jupiter during the daytime in a spectacular proximate conjunction.
One of the most interesting conjunctions is with Venus and Jupiter. Both planets rank among the brightest celestial objects. Because Venus is rarely visible in a dark sky, a conjunction of these planets occurs either during either morning or evening twilight.
Conjunctions of the two planets occur every one to two years. The close ones are quite interesting to observe, as faster moving Venus overtakes and passes closer to the slower moving Jupiter. The approach and recession is much faster than the recent Jupiter – Saturn great conjunction.
During a few days, Venus makes it final approach to Jupiter, passes the slower-moving planet, and moves away from it.
The February 11 conjunction is challenging to observe because it occurs when the two planets are near the sun and they rise only 22 minutes before sunrise. As the sun rises, they are very low in the east-southeastern sky and difficult to view.
A proximate* conjunction is a close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, where their separations are 0.5° (30 arcminutes) or less. The largest gap is equivalent to the full moon’s diameter in the sky.
Venus is nearing its superior conjunction with the sun. This conjunction occurs when Venus is in a line with the earth, but the sun is in the middle. The sun’s brilliance largely washes away the planets and stars when the glowing solar sphere is in the sky.
Unless you are a very experienced celestial observer, this writer recommends that you do not attempt to view this conjunction with optical aid.
Never point a binocular, spotting scope, or telescope at the sun. Sunlight amplified by the optics of a binocular, spotting scope, or telescope can damage the optical device and cause serious damage to the human eye!
With a clear sky later in the day, Venus and Jupiter are likely visible with optical aid. Venus is south about 30 minutes before local noon.
Venus and Jupiter are only 10° from the sun, and 0.4° apart in the sky, within the definition of a proximate conjunction of the two planets.
Experienced telescope users (those who can find a celestial object without a finderscope) should shield themselves from the sun, with the edge of a building or other obstruction. In full sunlight, the solar glare can cause nuisance reflections on the front of the telescope or within the optical tube that degrades the view of the two planets.
Depending on the optical design of the telescope, Jupiter is to the upper right of Venus in a low-power eyepiece.
Following this close conjunction future Venus – Jupiter conjunctions are listed here:
|Apr 30, 2022||15’ (0.4°)||Morning||Venus rises 93 minutes before sunrise. Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus is 8° up in the east, to the right of Jupiter. Mars and Saturn are to the upper right of the planets.|
|Mar 2, 2023||32’ (0.5°)||Evening||One hour after sunset, Venus is about 18° up in the west, to the upper right of Jupiter. The pair sets over 150 minutes after sunset.|
|May 23, 2024||12’||Morning||Technically a morning event. The planets are very close to the sun. Venus is only 3° away from the sun, rising 6 minutes before sunrise. Extremely challenging if not impossible to observe.|
|Aug 12, 2025||52’||Morning||One hour before sunrise, Venus is less than 20° in altitude above the east-northeast horizon. Venus is to the lower right of Jupiter. Mercury is to the lower left near the east-northeast horizon.|
|From 2026 to 2032, four Venus – Jupiter conjunctions occur, separations ranging from 32’ to 1°54’.|
|Feb 7, 2032||21’||Morning||Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus is less than 7° up in the southeast, Venus is to the left of Jupiter. The crescent moon is over 20° to the upper right of the planets.|
Detailed Note: Warning: It is dangerous to your telescope or binocular and your eyesight to attempt to observe astronomical objects when they are near the sun. Today is the Proximate (close) Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. Such conjunctions occur with a gap of 0.5° or smaller. This one is a challenging conjunction to observe. The planets rise only 22 minutes before sunrise, and they are only 4° up in the east-southeast when the sun rises. The gap is 0.4° and the planets are only 10° from the sun. With a clear horizon and exceptional weather, this may be a naked-eye event. It might be viewed better through a telescopic eyepiece when the planets are in the south at about 11:30 a.m. CST. The Venusian coordinates are R.A. 21h2m, dec. −17°56’. The Venus-Jupiter gap is only 2’ larger than at sunrise. As with the Venus – Saturn conjunction that occurred a few days ago, find an obstruction to block out the sun. The next Venus – Jupiter conjunction occurs on the morning April 30, 2022, when the planets are 29’ apart, another proximate conjunction. The moon is at its New phase at 1:06 p.m. CST. One hour after sunset. Mars is over 64° in altitude in the south-southwest. It is marching eastward in Aries. Tonight, the planet passes 2.8° to the lower left of Epsilon Arietis (ε Ari, m = 4.6). In addition, Mars is 1.3° to the upper left of ρ Ari and 2.6° to the lower right of δ Ari.
*Note: In an article during 2015, this author used the term “epoch” to describe a close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. This was based on an editor’s use of the term to describe the event. Likely, the editor made an error in his selection of the term. Beginning with this article, this author uses “proximate” to delineate a close conjunction of Venus and Jupiter where the planets are 0.5° (30’) or less apart.
March 18, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the southeastern sky as sunup approaches. Jupiter is the brighter planet, but it is low in the east-southeast. Saturn is to the Jovian Giant’s upper right. During the early evening, the waxing crescent moon is in the western sky near the Pleiades star cluster and below Mars. The Red Planet is moving eastward in Taurus.
March 17, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the early evening the lunar crescent is about one-third of the way up in the sky to the upper left of Hamal, the brightest star in Aries. Mars is higher in the sky in Taurus. This evening it makes a pretty triangle with two dim stars.
March 16, 2021: Jupiter and Saturn are low in the southeastern sky before sunrise. During the evening the lunar crescent displays earthshine, while Mars continues to march eastward through the starfields of Taurus.