December 3, 2008

Jupiter and Venus have been teaming up in sky lately

Lately, there have been two stars in the southern sky, and they are very bright. One is larger than the other. Do you know what they are?

This one has come in several times in various forms over the past few days.

What you are seeing is a conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter. Conjunction means they appear to be close to each other.

The brighter of the two is Venus, our closest planetary neighbor. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system.

They have been drawing near each other - or at least appearing to draw near, for the past several days and their conjunction has now peaked.

They give the appearance of being very close to each other but actually are 500 million miles apart. Both Jupiter and Venus are covered with clouds that reflect sunlight. That makes them very bright.

Their conjunction is so bright that some people think that's what explains the star of Bethlehem in the biblical story of the magi and the birth of Jesus.

Jupiter and Venus are in conjunction about once a year or so, but sometimes they are too close to the sun to be visible to us. Their next visible conjunction will be in March 2012.

Jupiter is having a busy month. It will be in conjunction with Mercury toward the end of December.

While I was looking all this up, I discovered that when the moon is full on Dec. 12 it will be closer to Earth - 221,554 miles - than it has since 1993, and a full moon won't be this close again until 2016.

That's interesting.

Source: Azcentral

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