March 1, 2023: Look for the Venus-Jupiter conjunction in the west-southwest after sundown. Mars, with Taurus, and the gibbous moon, near the Gemini Twins are farther eastward.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:26 a.m. CST; Sunset, 5:41 p.m. CST. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location. Times are calculated from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s MICA computer program.
Venus passes Jupiter this evening in a close conjunction. The planets are visible early during twilight in the west-southwest. By 45 minutes after sundown, brilliant Venus is about 20° up in the western sky. Bright Jupiter is immediately to the left of the Evening Star.
This is an easily observed event, without the need of a binocular or telescope. The conjunction is visible until the planets set about 150 minutes after sunset, although the best view – free from obstructions in the skyline – is up to about 90 minutes after the sun sets.
The two planets appear close together in the sky. Extend your arm. The tip of your pinky finger fits between the two planets. This is about the diameter of the full moon, but the planets are too far apart to easily fit into a telescope’s field of view.
While the two planets appear close together in the sky, Venus is 127 million miles away from Earth. Jupiter is 400 million miles beyond Venus.
If we could observe the solar system from north of the plane where the planets revolve, Earth, Venus, and Jupiter are along an imaginary line, with a large gap from Jupiter to Venus, that 400- million-mile distance. Both planets are in Earth’s evening sky, east of an imaginary line from Earth through the sun that defines noon and midnight.
Venus-Jupiter conjunctions occur every year or so and are quite spectacular. Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest starlike bodies in the night sky. Sometimes Mars is brighter than Jupiter when the Red Planet is close to Earth, but the Jovian Giant is consistently the fourth brightest celestial object after the sun, moon, and Venus.
Conjunctions of the two planets occur within about 45° from the sun, Venus’ maximum distance from the sun as viewed from Earth. The two planets can be seen during bright twilight, but if they are too close to the sun, they are not easily visible. The next conjunction, May 23, 2024, is one of those that occurs too close to the sun for easy observation, although the August 12, 2025, conjunction is easily visible before sunrise. The table below outlines the prospects for the next five Venus-Jupiter conjunctions.
|Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions, 2024-2028, Chicago, Illinois|
|May 23, 2024||a.m.||The planets are only 0.2° apart, but the conjunction is only 3° from the sun. Not easily visible.|
|August 12, 2025||a.m.||One hour before sunrise, Venus is nearly 20° up in the east-northeast. Venus-Jupiter, 0.9°.|
|June 9, 2026||p.m.||One after sunset, Venus is over 15° above the west-northwest horizon. The Venus-Jupiter gap, 1.6°.|
|August 25, 2027||p.m.||The planets are 0.5° apart, but about 4° from the sun. Not easily visible.|
|November 9, 2028||a.m.||Forty-five minutes before sunrise, Venus is over 20° above the east-southeast horizon, 1.7° from Jupiter. Spica is over 10° below Venus.|
Each evening Venus steps eastward faster than Jupiter, opening a widening gap each night. It stays within 10° of the Jovian Giant through the 11th. This dance is not finished tonight. Look for them each clear evening.
With the conjunction occurring in the western sky, the bright gibbous moon, 75% illuminated, is high in the southeastern sky, near Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins. The lunar orb is 10.9° to the upper right of Castor.
Mars is in the vicinity, over 20° to the upper right of the lunar orb. The Red Planet is marching eastward in Taurus, 4.5° from Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn. The planet passes the star in about a week.
- 2023, October 18: Moon-Antares Conjunction, Bright PlanetsOctober 18, 2023: The moon is near Antares after sunset. Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn are in the sky during the nighttime hours.
- 2023, October 17: Scorpion MoonOctober 17, 2023: The crescent moon is with Scorpius during evening twilight. Venus and Jupiter gleam from the predawn sky.
- 2023, October 16: Venus in Starry ConjunctionOctober 16, 2023: Venus passes a star in Leo before sunrise. A crescent moon is low in the western sky during evening twilight.
- 2023, October 16-22: Celestial Events for the WeekOctober 16-22, 2023: The moon returns to the evening sky. Venus steps eastward in front of Leo, and a meteor shower is visible.
- 2023, October 15: Three Bright PlanetsOctober 15, 2023: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter are visible before sunrise. Saturn is above the southeast horizon after sundown.