An Exquisite Venus–Jupiter Conjunction

Venus bids farewell at dawn, but not before a close encounter with returning Jupiter.

Dawn Pairing

Venus and Jupiter make a close pass at each other on Monday, November 13th. This view shows the scene facing southeast 45 minutes before sunrise.
Stellarium

Venus may be on its way out of the morning sky, but it won't depart until it attends to some important business. On Monday morning, November 13th, the planet passes just 0.3° north of Jupiter in a strikingly close conjunction. Jupiter even pulls out all the stops with its four Galilean satellites spread to either side of its striped globe on that date.

Through a telescope at low to medium magnification (30–100×) the planets will fit in the same field of view, highlighting both their different sizes and reflectivities. Venus, a tiny beacon, will be 10″ across, 97% illuminated, and about 16 times brighter than larger and duller Jupiter.

November marks the giant planet's grand entry, a return to morning observation after its October 26th solar conjunction. If it weren't for Venus spinning up the scene, most of us would give Jupiter another week or two to extricate itself from the solar glare before attempting an observation. That's why it's important to pick a place with a good view to the east to view the event. From mid-northern latitudes, the two planets will be only about 5° high, or three fingers held together at arm's length, 45 minutes before sunrise. 

Venus Joins the Family

Any telescope will show tiny Venus along with Jupiter and its four brightest moons in the same field of view on the 13th. Satellites are Ganymede (III), Io (I), Europa (II), and Callisto (IV). North is up and time is about 6 a.m. CST.
Stellarium

Venus will pop into view first, with Jupiter about 18′ to its right (south). European skywatchers will see them about 2′ closer together. The last time the two brightest planets were this close was on August 27, 2016 (0.1°); the next conjunction, a much looser one, will occur on January 22, 2019. Monday's close pairing makes a good opportunity to catch Jupiter in daylight. Just keep track of Venus after sunrise — a clock-driven or Go To telescope is preferred — and you'll easily spot Jupiter, too.

There's no avoiding the fact that Venus is on its way out of the morning sky. It's been losing altitude all fall. Tomorrow, November 9th, the planet rises in twilight with a solar elongation of 15°. Moving about 0.9° eastward each day, its distance from the Sun shrinks to 10° by month's end, making it tricky to find. 

Because Venus is approaching superior conjunction (January 9, 2018), when it's on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, it appears to move much more slowly. That's why it's lingered for months at dawn before making an equally slow transition to the evening sky. At inferior conjunction, when the planet lies between the Earth and Sun, it zips from evening to morning in a matter of days.

Bad weather can always mess up observing plans, so if November 13th looks grim, try the 12th or 14th, when Jupiter and Venus will be about 1° apart. On the 16th, the old Moon drops by, hovering about 6° above the planet pair. An even thinner sliver of Moon shows up 4° to the left (north) of Venus on the 17th, some 24 hours before new Moon for observers in the United States.

Echoes of the Past

Scott Harrington captured a similar conjunction of Venus and Jupiter on August 18, 2014, when the two planets were as close as they'll be on November 13th.
Scott Harrington

Eye-catching celestial events like the upcoming conjunction are blind to the calendar, ensuring that  even in the gray doldrums of mid-November we have something sparkly to look forward to.

15 thoughts on “An Exquisite Venus–Jupiter Conjunction

  1. Graham-Wolf

    Top marks, Bob!
    I had noticed in recent days:- Jupiter “moving in” on Venus.
    Suspicions confirmed of a forthcoming conjunction, with your latest article.

    I recall you did a recent one about Venus and Mars.
    Looks like Venus recently gave the bellicose Mars the big flick, and is now cosying up to the big orange beefcake:- Jupiter! I can recall “Happy Days” re-runs in my mind.
    Do we get invited to the wedding?

    Another astro-photo opportunity awaits.
    A few recent storms down under, but here in NZ, we march on towards Summer in the antipodes.
    Full Moon on the wane, and the Celsius starting to climb a little. 20 – 25 deg C on many days, now.

    Have put together some SCP wide angle pics of the Southern “favourites” for you, plus some observing impressions towards your May 2018 book, Bob… It’s coming by e-mail to you, soon!

    You indeed have Cassiopeia and the Pole Star, (and awesome Lake Superior foreshore, Bob) but down here at 46 South, we have virtually all the rest. Great to hear of the Northern interest in the Southern Cross, Eta Carina (NGC 3372), Omega Centauri (NGC 5139), Jewelbox Cluster (NGC 4755) etc. I just simply step outside my back door, look up, and they’re all there… all night long!!

    Around mid-night local time this week, I’ve easily stepped outside and seen Orion, and connected a line LEFT from Bellatrix to Aldebarran, then a similar amount to the Pleiades (M45), two further lengths to the left, and 1 length upwards, lands me right over Hamal (Alpha Aretis) Mv 2.00. Nice equatorial scenes, I have to say. WE see it upside down and back-to-front, compared to you Northerners.

    Crikey! we Kiwis just don’t know how incredibly lucky we really are…

    Graham W. Wolf at 46 South, Dunedin, NZ.

  2. Graham-Wolf

    Comments noted, Anthony.

    It had crossed my mind, and certainly no offence intended.
    I clearly indulged in some rather dry humour in my previous post.
    And yes, even the Greco-Romans themselves indulged in incest in those dark old days, never mind their own Gods. Caligula’s own lifestyle rings loud in my ears…. there are surely many others.

    Memo to Jupiter… Keep your dirty incestuous hands off Venus!
    There… sorted.

    I hope you and many others out there Anthony, are getting really good views of this forthcoming planetary conjunction. After all, that’s the really important bit.

    Kind regards
    Graham.W.Wolf at 46 South, Dunedin, NZ.

  3. sgrant

    About how high above the horizon will this occur for the low South of the U.S.? New Orleans, specifically.

    Thanks for all the wonderful posts, you keep the sky interesting!

  4. sgrant

    Thank you Anthony!
    The weather forecast looked grim but when my early alarm went off everything was clear. My wife joined me because she was up with contractions as we are expecting our first child. We headed to a flat clear area and began to search, and she found them low on the horizon! We watched until they faded from binoculars, now on to the next adventure, parenting!

  5. Anthony BarreiroAnthony Barreiro

    We had an opportune break in the clouds Monday morning about 25 minutes before sunrise. I saw Venus and her dad through binoculars. It was too bright to see any of Jupiter’s retinue. And this morning the sky was mostly clear, so I got a good look at them again.

  6. SNH

    Though I’m young, I don’t know if when I’m old I will be tired of doing astronomy at the high rate that I’m doing it now. Either way though, I will never, ever tire of seeing bright conjunctions such as the one I saw Monday morning! It was just so easy to look east with the naked-eye and see such bright beacons shining with a yellow touch right above my distance tree tops. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. Binoculars were great, but I found the view to be best naked-eye since I could look around and keep coming back to how amazingly bright Venus and Jupiter were. I guess they were at their best right while they were also at their lowest. Thanks for the article and including my photo, Bob. That was really special.

    Scott

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