Jupiter, Venus set to put on stunning show for astronomers, according to NASA

By | March 13, 2012

Venus and Jupiter are set to dazzle stargazers with a stunning display, according to officials at the U.S. space agency NASA.

Space agency officials say the pair of planets will present amateur astronomers with a stunning view of the gas giant and the Earth’s neighboring planet. The duo will be within 3 degrees of each other, providing amateur and professional astronomers with a rare view of the two brightest planets in the sky. The celestial action peaks this Thursday (March 15), and will continue through the weekend when Venus and Jupiter align in a planetary conjunction.

The Venus-Jupiter conjunctions are fairly special events, occurring roughly every 13 months, according to NASA officials. However, this month’s viewing should be one of the best for astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere, experts say. At mid-nothern latitudes on Thursday, the pair of planets should be visible for nearly four hours after sunset. Experts at NASA say this year’s occurrence is especially impressive, noting that it could be the best show for years to come.

“This will be the best Venus-Jupiter conjunction for years to come. While bright to the unaided eye, they’re even better when seen through a telescope,” the space agency said in a statement released Monday.

The view of the planets will leave stargazers with a interesting perspective on the pair of planets. By mid-month, the planets will be so close to one another that stargazers will have the ability to block them with a single finger. NASA officials say the alignment is likely to provide astronomers with a clear picture of the planets that could allow for detailed views of both Jupiter and Venus.

“The two brilliant planets surrounded by evening blue is a beautiful sight,” NASA said in statement. The pair of planets will serve as “a spectacular double beacon in the sunset sky,” the space agency adds.
Both Venus and Jupiter seem to have captured the imagination of amateur stargazers, according to NASA. In a statement released ahead of the event, NASA officials noted that the starlight emitted by the planets has the ability to create the illusion of a high-definition view of the planets.

“Your eye is a bit like a digital camera,” explains optometrist Dr. Stuart Hiroyasu of Bishop, California. “There’s a lens in front to focus the light, and a photo-array behind the lens to capture the image.”

“Whatever you see, you see in high-definition,” Dr. Hiroyasu says. The fovea is critical to reading, driving, watching television. The fovea has the brain’s attention.”

Scientists at NASA say the event will have worldwide audience, adding that the combined brightness of the planets will outshine any cloud coverage.

“This arrangement will be visible all around the world, from city and countryside alike,” says NASA. “The moon, Venus and Jupiter are the brightest objects in the night sky; together they can shine through urban lights, fog, and even some clouds.”

While Jupiter is about 11 times wider than the roughly Earth-size Venus, Venus shines much more brightly than the gas giant from our perspective — about eight times more brightly this week, according to astronomers. The reason has to do with the fact that Venus is much closer to us than Jupiter is. On average, Earth orbits 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from the sun, a distance defined as 1 astronomical unit (AU). Venus zips around our star at about 0.72 AU, while Jupiter is found roughly 5.2 AU away from the sun. …

via Jupiter, Venus set to put on stunning show for astronomers, according to NASA | The State Column.

Take another look at the photo above as some kind of round-faced smiling god peeking through the clouds.  Just remember that Venus is the one that looks bigger, but isn’t. Below is a handy comparison of the sizes of some large visible things in our solar system.

Ever notice how big Uranus is? Yes, Uranus is bigger than the entire Earth.  Damn, Uranus is big. Just look at it. Huge. I’m looking at Uranus right now and it sure looks to me like I could fit more than 10 entire planet earths inside Uranus.  Daaaamn!  Here’s a tip: Avoid “Wiki.Answers.com” which written by idiots or jokers, I can’t tell which.  The site is full of wrong answers, like “Uranus can hold about 111,257,462,345 Earths. ”

UniverseToday.com has the real answer: It says I could fit “63.1 Earths inside Uranus”. The AstroSociety.org and caltech.edu web sites agree, 63 earths.


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