Venus and Jupiter will soon share the same tiny part of the sky

The month of March kicks off with a close conjunction of two bright naked-eye planets: Venus and Jupiter. The pair will appear closest for U.S. observers in the evening sky on March 1, leading up to the true moment of conjunction early on the 2nd, after the planets have set.

Eager skywatchers can get started shortly before sunset on Wednesday, as Venus will begin to stand out against the background sky even before the Sun has set. The bright (magnitude –3.9) planet appears roughly 30° above the western horizon at sunset and has sunk to half that altitude an hour later. Jupiter appears just 30′ to Venus’ upper left (southeast); at magnitude –2.1, it should appear shortly after sunset, again even while the sky remains bright. See how long after sunset it takes for you to make out the second bright pinprick of light against the fading twilight.

Both are bright enough to see easily with the naked eye. If you want to use magnification, do not look through binoculars, a telescope, or any other optical instrument until the Sun has fully set from your observing site; note this may occur before or after the time listed in this article, depending on your location.

However, once the Sun is below the horizon, you can safely use binoculars or a telescope to enjoy the pair. Any telescope will offer an excellent view, and observing while the sky is still somewhat light offers the benefit of keeping Venus’ bright glare from overpowering the scene. Use low magnification and a field of view about 1° across to comfortably capture both planets at the same time. Such a view offers some unique insight into the architecture of our solar system and the worlds within it.

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