Watch Venus and Jupiter become ‘Star of Bethlehem’: Cosmic illusion will make planets appear to merge in night sky
- People in the UK and US can spot Venus and Jupiter together tomorrow
- From the UK they will be visible above the western horizon after 10.30pm
- In the US they will be visible in the same direction after sunset
- This chance alignment of the two planets is very rare
- Some claims similar alignment was responsible for Star of Bethlehem
Venus and Jupiter will be visible near each other in skies around the world tomorrow and Wednesday in a rare conjunction event.
The planets, which are hundreds of millions of miles from each other, will for a short period of time seem to be galactic neighbours, passing so close they seem to merge.
It will be the closest conjunction of the two planets until August 2016.
People in the UK and US can spot Venus and Jupiter together tomorrow (artist’s impression shown). From the UK they will be visible above the western horizon after 10.30pm. In the US they will be visible in the same direction after sunset. This chance alignment of the two planets is very rare
The two planets are the brightest in the night sky as seen from Earth.
The line-of-sight illusion is caused when the orbits of Venus and Jupiter line up on the same side of the sun as seen from Earth.
As Venus orbits in 225 days, Earth in 365 and Jupiter in 4,330, the chance of such as alignment occurring is fairly rare.
The next in August 2016 will be visible only from certain latitudes, while they will not be seen in UK skies like this again until November 2019.
In the UK, the best time to look will be between 10.30 to 11pm towards the west-northwest horizon.
The further north and west in the UK you are, the later you should look.
In the US, the best time will be just after sunset, above the western horizon.
Sky & Telescope said they will be so close together they will look like a ‘tight, brilliant double star in the evening sky.’
Nick Howes, an astronomer working with the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland, told MailOnline that Jupiter would appear circular, while Venus will appear as a crescent.
‘The angular separation between the two planets will be so small that the tip of your little finger at arms length will cover it,’ he said.
‘To see it you’ll need a clear west-northwest horizon, and it will be spectacular in small telescopes and larger binoculars as you’ll get to see the phase of Venus as well as the moons and major gas bands of Jupiter as well.’
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