Whether you’re playing Pokemon Go or watching the Chinese Olympic “stars” perform in Hong Kong this weekend, be sure to take a break and look at the sky on Saturday night. The planets Venus and Jupiter will come very close together on the evening of August 27, and if you miss it, you’ll have to wait for another decade to see this stunning astronomical phenomenon.
This encounter between these two planets – known as the Venus-Jupiter conjunction – occurs once a year, but Hong Kong Joint School Astronomical Society honorary advisor Phil Lee told Young Post that the planets won’t come this close together for another decade.
“The best time to see the conjunction will be 7pm on Saturday above the western horizon, when Jupiter and Venus will be within 0.1 degrees of each other,” says Lee. “The two planets will seem to combine to form one super bright star. On Sunday, they will not be that close as they’ll separate by 0.5 degrees.”
Lee said you don’t need any special equipment to see the conjunction, because the two planets are as bright as street lights, but “if it gets cloudy or hazy, you can use binoculars for a better view.”
Someone else will also be keeping an eye on Jupiter, and that’s Nasa’s Juno spacecraft, which reached Jupiter in early June to begin exploring the king of the planets.
Juno’s mission: to peer through Jupiter’s clouded atmosphere and map the interior from a unique vantage point above the poles. Among the lingering questions: How much water exists? Is there a solid core? Why are Jupiter’s southern and northern lights the brightest in the solar system? Unlocking its history may hold clues to understanding how Earth and the rest of the solar system developed.
The spaceship is getting much closer to the planet now, swinging in to within 5,000km of Jupiter’s clouds.