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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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A Dozen New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter

Twelve new moons orbiting Jupiter have been found -- 11 'normal' outer moons, and one that they're calling an 'oddball.'

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Jupiter
Astronomers Discovers 12 New Moons Orbiting Around Jupiter. (VOA)

Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones.

The latest discovery of a dozen small moons brings the total to 79, the most of any planet in our solar system.

Scientists were looking for objects on the fringes of the solar system last year when they pointed their telescopes close to Jupiter’s backyard, according to Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington. They saw a new group of objects moving around the giant gas planet but didn’t know whether they were moons or asteroids passing near the planet.

“There was no eureka moment,” said Sheppard, who led the team of astronomers. “It took a year to figure out what these objects were.”

They all turned out to be moons of Jupiter. The confirmation of 10 was announced Tuesday. Two were confirmed earlier.

The moons had not been spotted before because they are tiny. They are about one to two kilometers across, said astronomer Gareth Williams of the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

And he thinks Jupiter might have even more moons just as small waiting to be found.

“We just haven’t observed them enough,” said Williams, who helped confirm the moons’ orbits.

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12 New Moons Discovered Orbiting Jupiter. Pixabay

The team is calling one of the new moons an “oddball” because of its unusual orbit. Sheppard’s girlfriend came up with a name for it: Valetudo, the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter.

Valetudo is in Jupiter’s distant, outer swarm of moons that circles in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation. Yet it’s orbiting in the same direction as the planet, against the swarm’s traffic.

“This moon is going down the highway the wrong way,” Sheppard said.

Scientists believe moons like Valetudo and its siblings appeared soon after Jupiter formed. The planet must have acted like a vacuum, sucking up all the material that was around it. Some of that debris was captured as moons.

“What astonishes me about these moons is that they’re the remnants of what the planet formed from,” he said.

Telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona were used for the latest discovery and confirmation.

Also Read-NASA Probes Unveils Stormy Environment of Jupiter’s moon

Galileo detected Jupiter’s four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, in 1610. The latest count of 79 known moons includes eight that have not been seen for several years. Saturn is next with 61, followed by Uranus with 27 and Neptune with 14. Mars has two, Earth has one and Mercury and Venus have none. (VOA)