In the last few days, we have watched the intricate dance of Venus and Jupiter in the Western sky after sunset. They have tangoed and passed by one another and the world has watched as the best conjunction of the year has come and gone. Don’t forget that even though they appear close in the sky, Venus is actually closer to the Earth than it is to Jupiter. Jupiter is hundreds of millions of kilometers further away than Venus.
Today’s APOD is a beautiful shot by Letian Wang combining the proximity of the two planets with the (much further East in the sky) full moon. The size comparison is the golden nugget in all of this. Even though Jupiter could fit 1000 copies of Venus within its vast cloud layers, Venus is the bigger and far brighter object in the sky.
I also love the visible moons of Jupiter in the image. These are the four moons of Jupiter observed by Galileo Galilei in 1609, three of which are actually larger than the Earth’s moon, and easily visible in a telescope on most nights.
Even though the conjunction has passed, Venus and Jupiter will both be visible for a few more weeks in the evening sky, so enjoy the summer of planets as we grow ever closer to the year’s most exciting story, with New Horizons Passing Pluto.