February won’t be a good month for planet lovers — the only planet visible at night will be Mars. However, if you like getting up early, there’s a treat for you. Within a week, Venus will be in conjunction with two planets: Saturn and Jupiter. Plus, it will become a part of a planetary trio! In today’s article, we’ll give you tips on how to observe these astronomical events.
What does it mean when two planets are in conjunction?
In astronomy, when two objects have the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, as observed from the Earth, they are considered to be in conjunction with one another. To put it simpler, a conjunction occurs when two astronomical objects appear to be close together in the sky. In reality, during conjunctions, the objects are hundreds of millions of kilometers apart.
Planets coming close together in the night sky can provide fascinating views that can be seen both with the naked eye and binoculars. Very close conjunctions can be even observed through a telescope.
When can I see the Venus and Saturn conjunction 2021?
The Venus-Saturn conjunction will occur on February 6. The two planets will meet in the sky within an hour before sunrise and will be only 0.4 degrees apart. For reference, the Moon is about 0.5 degrees in diameter, as seen from the Earth.
This conjunction will not be easily visible from both hemispheres because the planets will be hanging low in the sky, hidden in the glow of morning twilight. But you should try to observe them anyway! Venus — the third brightest object after the Sun and the Moon — will be glowing at a magnitude of -3.8, so you should be able to find it in the sky. When you locate Venus, use binoculars to spot dimmer Saturn shining at a magnitude of 1.3 nearby.
What time is the Venus and Jupiter conjunction 2021?
The second conjunction is also for early risers. On February 11, within an hour before sunrise, Venus will get close to Jupiter that will have a magnitude of -1.9. The planets will be about 0.4 degrees apart on the sky’s dome. Observers in the Southern Hemisphere will have better observation conditions because the planets will be positioned higher in the sky. To see this conjunction, find a good observing point, aim your binoculars at the horizon, and wait for Venus and Jupiter to rise high enough in the sky. But don’t wait too long because the light of dawn will eventually hide the planets from view.
As a bonus, two days after the conjunction with Jupiter, Venus will also become a part of a planetary trio! On February 13, the brightest planet will dance with Mercury (magnitude 2.8) and Jupiter in the early morning sky. Venus will be 4,5 degrees away from Mercury and 1,5 degrees away from Jupiter. You can observe the trio with the naked eye.
The Star Walk 2 app will be a great help in finding planets during conjunctions — especially when observation conditions are not very favorable. All you need to do is launch the app, tap the magnifier icon, type the planet’s name, and tap the corresponding search result. After that, point your device at the sky and follow the white arrow to find the object you need. You can zoom in with your fingers and tap on the nearby objects to see their names.