Venus and Jupiter, so near and yet so far

Saturday, August 27th planets Venus and Jupiter appeared less than a degree apart at sunset in the closest “appulse” of the year.

Unfortunately the skies here were cloudy Saturday and I had to wait until Sunday evening to glimpse the duo which were low in the west at dusk.

Venus Jupiter Appulse 28 Aug 16

The window for viewing these two was very brief, only about ten minutes between the time the sky darkened enough to see them before they dropped below the tree line at my observing location.


I captured them a few minutes before the pair dropped behind the tree line. For comparison I’ve posted a shot taken by my friend Bruce Berger in Boston on Saturday, 27 August. See the difference?

Venus is about 40 million miles distant from Earth, Jupiter a half billion. While Jove is about 11 times the size of our rocky twin, its more than ten times distant and therefore appears smaller from our vantage point. If you have a clear, low western horizon get out at dusk and watch as Venus climbs into the evening sky while Jove sinks into the Sun’s glare.

For an even more interesting pairing look to the south at dusk and observe Mars’ eastward motion past Saturn and the heart of the Scorpion, Antares. Saturn and the star form a nice vertical line and are about 8 degrees apart. Watch as rusty orange-red Mars moves east from one evening to the next. Saturn and Antares give a good reference point against which you can easily see Mars apparent motion