Venus, Earth align

By Carly Niceley

Something “out of this world” is going on in the aftermath of sunset, but the show that Venus and Jupiter have been putting on the past couple weeks will come to a close at the end of this week.

It began Aug. 26 when the two brightest planets in the solar system, Venus and Jupiter, began to congregate and appeared merged together in the evening twilight skies, around 8:30 p.m.

This week has been especially spectacular to view the evening skies because the moon has joined Venus and Jupiter, adding to the show by creating a triangular shape between the three of them.

“Venus, Jupiter and the moon will be within one degree of each other, and this week they are going to form a neat little triangle that can be viewed with the naked eye right after sunset,” said Liz Holden, Davis Hall Observatory manager.

Since the two planets appeared converged at the end of August, they have been slowly moving apart, but will still appear joined in the skies for the next couple of days.

This will not be the last time the planets appear in Earth’s view.

“Jupiter and Venus join this close a couple times a year and appear because they are not lost in the sun’s glare, because they aren’t that near the sun, Holden said. “They usually get close together in the sky on average around once a year, next time will be about 13 months from now.”

Why have Venus and Jupiter appeared in the skies at this time of the year?

According to professor David Hedin, Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the sun while Venus orbits the sun every 7 months and they appear.

“They are visible, but they appear very close to the horizon,” Hedin said.

With the planets moving farther apart from each other, the show will come to an end very shortly, but assistant professor Paul Stoddard said the skies will offer plenty other shows, treating the eyes in the upcoming months.

“Mars will be up in the evening starting late October, early November, in the eastern sky with Venus coming back into view very low in the southwest sky in late November, early December. In late December to early January, Saturn will start rising in the evenings,” Stoddard said.