A spectacular Venus and Jupiter conjunction is unfolding before dawn on Monday, August 18th


Venus and Jupiter in Morning Skies. Image Credit: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)

Venus and Jupiter will be in conjunction on August 18, 2014. This will be the closest planet versus planet conjunction for 2014. At their closest — around 4:00 Universal Time or midnight Eastern Daylight Saving Time — Venus and Jupiter will stand only 11.9’ apart, less than half the diameter of a Full Moon. This will make the pair an “easy squeeze” into the same telescopic field of view at low power. Venus will shine at magnitude -3.9, while Jupiter is currently about 2 magnitudes or 6.3 times fainter at magnitude -1.8. In fact, Jupiter shines about as bright as another famous star just emerging into the dawn sky, Sirius. Such a dawn sighting is known as a heliacal rising, and the first recovery of Sirius in the dawn heralded the flooding of the Nile for the ancient Egyptians and the start what we now term the Dog Days of Summer.

If you want to see this planetary conjunction at its best you will need to  get up very early, as the two planets start rising from the north east horizon just after 4.00 am universal Time. They then climb towards the east, and will be on show until Sunrise at roughly 5.00 am. It’s Venus however that will be better able to punch through the morning sun glow and stay visible for longer. You’ll need a clear as possible north eastern horizon free from nearby buildings to see the conjunction in relative dark sky before the Sun’s light takes over.

If you have a telescope, tote it out for the best look. Both planets will fit with room to spare in the same field of view, a sight not to be missed!