The Moon, Venus and Jupiter are the three brightest objects in our night sky – and you can see them all in plain sight if you look up at the stars this month and into next.
What’s even better is on a clear night, you may even be able to make out the stars that make up the constellations of Cancer and Gemini.
How to find them in the night sky
Finding them is very easy – in the western sky after sunset lookout for the waxing crescent moon rising towards the bright shining planet of Venus, climbing higher each night as it continues on its journey, which will take it past the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter over the coming nights.
You should be able to easily spot Pollux and Castor – the brightest and second brightest stars in the Gemini constellation. Castor to the naked eye looks like one star – but look more closely through binoculars or a telescope, and you’ll see it’s actually made up of 6 stars!
Pollux has an extrasolar planet revolving around it – I wonder if they have aliens looking up at their night sky, wondering if there is life on our little pale blue dot!
The Chase Is On!
If you keep an eye out throughout the rest of May and into June, you’ll see Venus almost chase after Jupiter, finally catching it in late June.
When the planets appear to be in the same part of the sky like this, it’s known as a conjunction. What’s actually happening is that the two (or more) planets are on the same ecliptic longitude as seen from our point on the Earth.
The ecliptic is the line the planets appear to take across our sky, and you can find out more about it here.
Venus and Jupiter
Although Venus dazzles more brilliantly than Jupiter, it’s actually a fraction of its size. Venus is just a little smaller than our own planet and Jupiter is over 1200 times our size! However as Venus is so much closer to Earth than Jupiter (Venus is 162 million miles / 261 million kilometers away, and Jupiter is 365 million miles or 588 million kilometers away), the Suns reflection, which is what makes the planets shine, is far more prominent.
Interesting fact – to me anyway 🙂
The Earth’s day is 23 hours and 56 minutes long. On Venus, their day would last for 243 of our Earth days. Jupiter on the other hand, for being so large, spins around on its axis in under 10 hours.
So look out tonight as the Sun sets, and the first three celestial bodies you’ll see will be the crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter.
Why not take some photos, and send them over to me. I’ll put them up on a soon to be opened gallery on the website, with full credit to you of course!
All the best, Mark