Jupiter and Venus are the brightest planets in the night sky, but planetary movements do not always allow us to admire them side by side. During February 2023, they have been getting closer and closer, putting on a magnificent show. However, this was just the beginning, and tonight they can be admired right next to each other.
Jupiter and Venus in Conjunction
The celestial vault dazzles us every night with a starry mantle inhabited by suns like ours that are millions of light years away from us, but it is also possible to see our planetary neighbors dancing through the ecliptic. Identifying planets in the sky may seem like a complicated task, but with the right guidance, it is possible to locate them accurately to observe their unusual brightness compared to that of the stars.
During the February nights of 2023, Jupiter and Venus have been putting on an evening show. As soon as the sun sets in the west, they can be seen as two large bright spots on the horizon. But during the night of February 21 and February 22, the Moon will join them in their cosmic dance.
After sunset on February 21, look towards the west. You will be able to see an unusual alignment headed by a young crescent moon in its growing phase, followed by Venus and Jupiter. Thanks to the proximity of the first, it will appear much larger than the impressive gaseous Jovian.
After February 22, the moon will begin to move away from the encounter as it illuminates its disk more and more. But the absence of the natural Earth satellite will not diminish the union of the two planetary lovers, Jupiter and Venus will continue to get closer and closer, until they reach their closest conjunction on March 1, 2023, when Venus will pass only 0.5º from Jupiter or, in other words, the width of a full moon.
You can start watching them in the sky tonight and follow their journey on the star map, thus witnessing the cosmic movement of the planets with a good reference point.
How Bright are They?
Of all the planets visible to the naked eye in the sky, Venus is usually the brightest of them all thanks to its size and its proximity to Earth. It is so bright that it is considered the third most luminous body in the sky, only behind the Sun and the Moon. Then comes Jupiter, which almost always shines below the intensity of Venus, although sometimes it can appear brighter than Mars when it reaches opposition and gets close to us.
In the February 2023 nights, Jupiter and Venus will have a magnitude of -2.1 and -4.0 respectively. Keep in mind that the smaller the number, the brighter the glow in the sky. For reference, we have Sirius, which is the brightest star in the entire sky and has a magnitude of -1.46.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera.