Jupiter might be millions of miles from Venus at any given time, but for the next couple days, the two planets will seem to be in close company – at least from our perspective.
A conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, joined by the planet Mercury, can be seen in a rare triple conjunction this week in the western sky, just after sunset. The last time a triple conjunction occurred, according to NASA, was May 2011; another one won’t be seen until October 2015.
While the triangular arrangement of the three planets seen over the weekend is beginning to break up, on Tuesday night Venus will pass within one degree of Jupiter, “forming a truly spectacular pair,” Science@NASA producer Tony Phillips wrote.
To see the show, look to the west in the early twilight. Venus will pop out first, and the two other planets should become visible as it gets darker. The easiest way to distinguish planets from stars in the night sky is that planets generally don't twinkle (or “scintillate,” to give the technical term). Stars twinkle at us because they’re far enough away that Earth’s atmosphere can disrupt the stream of light beaming down from far away. If you were out in space, however, both planets and stars would shine with a steady light.