Jupiter and Venus Appear to ‘Kiss’
People can see these planets seem to come so close together they look like they’re touching.
By: Kelli Ballard | March 2, 2023 | 449 Words
In an event called a “conjunction,” Jupiter and Venus pass close enough to each other in space that, when viewing them from Earth, they look like they’re touching. Affectionately referred to as “kissing,” planet gazers were able to get a good view on Wednesday (March 1) and will be able to see the planets again tonight, Thursday, March 2.
The Jupiter and Venus Conjunction
The two planets crossed by each other just after sunset on March 1 as Jupiter moved westward and Venus passed in the other direction. Venus, the brightest planet, is on the right side of the sky while Jupiter can be seen on the left. The Virtual Telescope Project has a live video of the conjunction, which can be viewed here:
Although Jupiter and Venus look like they are close enough to touch, “They are actually 400 million miles apart,” explained Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History.
Conjunctions are not as rare as you might think. In fact, this event between Jupiter and Venus happens about once a year, and there are other conjunctions between other planets as well. As defined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “A conjunction is a celestial event in which two planets, a planet and the Moon, or a planet and a star appear close together in Earth’s night sky.” Astronomically speaking, these events don’t really have a purpose except for star-gazers who appreciate the view.
“Venus’s orbit is closer to the Sun than the Earth’s, and Jupiter’s orbit is much farther away, so the proximity is an illusion, occurring only because Earth, Venus, and Jupiter happen to be approximately aligned.”
Jupiter has more moons around it than any other planet in our solar system. In February, astronomers found 12 new moons, for a total of 92. Saturn comes in second place for the most with 83 confirmed moons. In April, the European Space Agency plans to send a spacecraft to Jupiter to study some of its icy moons. Next year, NASA is scheduled to launch the Europa Clipper to examine one of Jupiter’s moons which might contain an ocean beneath its crust.
The Jupiter and Venus conjunction can be viewed with the naked eye, however, using a telescope will give a much better look as the planets pass each other. NASA says the next full moon will be on March 7, and during that time, astronomy lovers will have the opportunity to see Jupiter, Venus, and Mars lit up bright in the sky.