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Cosmic Conjunction: Venus, Jupiter to converge with each other

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

A stunning close encounter of the two brightest star-like objects in the sky is expected this week.

Venus, the brightest object in the sky and Jupiter, the largest planet -will huddle close together in the sunset skies this week.

This will be the planets’ nearest approach in over a decade.

Over the past several weeks, both worlds have been slowly converging and on June 30, and July 1, they will reach their tightest grouping, separated by less than half a degree.

The distance between the planets will be so minute that onlookers will be able to cover both planets with just their pinky held at arm’s length.

The celestial meetup known as conjunction is the second in a series of three between Venus and Jupiter in over a year.

Even though conjunctions are not that rare, this particular series between the cosmic duo is the best in about 15 years.

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Photo showing Venus and Jupiter nearing a conjunction (Image courtesy Flickr)

 

Historically Venus and Jupiter conjunctions may be a possible answer to the Star of Bethlehem legend.

In the years 2 and 3 B.C., there was a similar series of three stunningly close pairings between the planets that would have caught the eye of ancient astronomers.

The best bet to catch sight of the pretty pairing is to look westward and high in the sky beginning a half hour after local sunset.

As darkness falls, beacon-like Venus will make its appearance first. Both planets shine so brilliantly, that observers should have no problem spotting them at dusk.

Venus will appear about 6 times brighter than Jupiter even though it’s only a tenth the size.

That’s because Venus is eternally enshrouded with highly reflective white clouds and is much closer to Earth. It’s about 56 million miles (90 million kilometers) away while Jupiter is much more distant—some 550 million miles (890 million kilometers).

Hence, their apparent proximity to each other is just an optical illusion.

You will be able to spot Venus’s disk, which resembles a miniature version of a quarter moon with even the smallest of backyard telescopes.

With Jupiter, high magnification will showcase its dark cloud belts and four of its largest moons, sitting beside the planet like a row of ducks.

Both planets will be lost in the glare of the sunset by the end of the month and will reappear in late August as bright morning stars visible before dawn.

However, Venus and Jupiter will offer one last opportunity for an amazing photo at dusk.

As a grand finale, the planets will be joined by the razor-thin crescent moon on July 18th.

This offers a perfect opportunity for night sky lovers to catch the three brightest nighttime celestial objects huddled together, all in the same field of view.

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Planets Beyond Milky Way Galaxy Discovered For First Time

The planet population, ranging from the size of the Moon to the size of Jupiter, were spotted in a galaxy located 3.8 billion light-years away, according to the study published in The Astrophysical Journal

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Until this study, there has been no evidence of planets in other galaxies. Wikimedia Commons
Until this study, there has been no evidence of planets in other galaxies. Wikimedia Commons

A team of scientists from the University of Oklahoma has discovered for the first time a population of planets beyond the Milky Way galaxy.

The planet population, ranging from the size of the Moon to the size of Jupiter, were spotted in a galaxy located 3.8 billion light-years away, according to the study published in The Astrophysical Journal.

For the discovery, the team used a technique called microlensing — a method capable of discovering planets at truly great distances from the Earth.

“We are very excited about this discovery. This is the first time anyone has discovered planets outside our galaxy,” said Professor Xinyu Dai.

ALSO READ: Super-Earth? Planet Hunters Find Another ‘Earthy’ Planet in Our Galactic Neighborhood

“These small planets are the best candidate for the signature we observed in this study using the microlensing technique. We analyzed the high frequency of the signature by modeling the data to determine the mass,” Dai said.

The researchers made the discovery with data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, a telescope in space that is controlled by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Wikimedia Commons
The researchers made the discovery with data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, a telescope in space that is controlled by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Wikimedia Commons

While planets are often discovered within the Milky Way using microlensing, the gravitational effect of even small objects can create high magnification leading to a signature that can be modeled and explained in extragalactic galaxies.

But until this study, there has been no evidence of planets in other galaxies.

ALSO READ: Astronomers find Evidence for 2 Newborn Planets, orbiting around a Young Star known as HD 163296

“This is an example of how powerful the techniques of analysis of extragalactic microlensing can be,” said postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Guerras.

“This galaxy is located 3.8 billion light-years away, and there is not the slightest chance of observing these planets directly, not even with the best telescope one can imagine in a science fiction scenario,” Guerras said.

“However, we are able to study them, unveil their presence and even have an idea of their masses. This is very cool science,” Guerras said. (IANS)