Jupiter and Venus Conjunction in June
Please join us at the VSU Observatory on
June 19 and June 20,
June 27 through July 3
EVERYONE is invited!
The planets Venus and Jupiter are meeting in the sky on June 30 this summer, 2015. Astronomers at the VSU Observatory will help you follow the approach and conjunction of these two brightest planets in the west after sunset. Weather permitting, VSU telescopes will be used to look at each planet in more detail. To see them with the unaided eye, just find the two brightest objects in the west, after sunset. Venus is the brighter of the two (-4.3 mag), and looks much like a spotlight when the sky is darker. Jupiter now lies above and to the east (left) of Venus, and is not as bright (-1.6 mag)—yet, both Jupiter and Venus are brighter than any star in the sky! The only brighter object in the evening sky will occasionally be the Moon. During the observing sessions, you'll see Venus as a crescent in shape and Jupiter's atmospheric bands and its several moons. Turning the telescope to Saturn, over in the south east, you'll see its rings and brightest moons. And we’ll be able to see the Moon on several of the proposed observing dates
What is most exciting, is that these planets are moving, night to night, with Venus and Jupiter getting closer together, so close on June 30 (the date of “conjunction”), that you can cover them up with your little finger, held at arm’s length. They are separated by 1/3 degree, less than a moon-width apart. We will plan a week of observing nights around this conjunction. Summer weather will have the normal clouds and summer storms, but we hope that there will be some clear nights between 9 and 10 pm—even partly cloudy might be OK—so that we can see Venus, Jupiter, the Moon and Saturn, and be able to use our telescopes to view them at 50 to 100 X magnification power. On the June 19 and 20 observing sessions, the slim crescent Moon will join Jupiter and Venus,
The diagram below, from EarthSky.org, shows the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus on June 30. Such conjunctions are not that rare; we had a morning conjunction last summer in August. But this year the planets are in the evening sky and much easier to see, and will be visible up to about 11 pm before they set.
Although we see Venus and Jupiter close together in the sky, they are actually at different distances from Earth. Venus is closer to us (0.5 AU, where 1 AU is the Earth-Sun distance), and coming closer as it rounds the Sun. Jupiter is much farther (at 6 AU), and moving across the star background more slowly than Venus and the Sun. By mid-August, both Jupiter and Venus will be lost in the sunset glare, with Jupiter behind the Sun on August 26, and Venus nearly in front of it on August 15. Don’t wait: enjoy these planets in June and July.
Please join us for any of these sessions, weather permitting, up on the 4th floor of Nevins Hall at the VSU Observatory. You may take the elevator near the southeast entrance to Nevins up to the 4th floor, or use the stairs. Students, faculty, and the public are invited! Our Observing Deck will be open from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm on the following nights: June 19 (F), June 20 (Sa), June 27 (Sa) through July 3 (F). The conjunction, or closest approach of Venus and Jupiter is Tuesday, June 30, (but they will still be very close on July 1). Astronomy faculty Dr. Leake and Dr. Rumstay, and astronomy friends will be available to guide you.
We hope to see you!