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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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NASA’s Ralph Will Explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids In 2021

Ralph's infrared detectors are 2,000 pixels square, compared to New Horizons Ralph's 256 by 256, allowing for images with more detail.

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NASA. Flcikr

 NASA’s Ralph, one of the most well-travelled scientific instrument, is set to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids aboard the Lucy spacecraft in 2021, the US space agency said.

Ralph has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.

In 2021, the Lucy spacecraft will carry a near-twin of Ralph, called L’Ralph (“Lucy Ralph”), to investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the early days of the solar system, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Jupiter. Pixabay

The L’Ralph instrument suite will study this diverse group of bodies. Lucy will fly by six Trojans and one Main Belt asteroid, more than any other previous asteroid mission.

L’Ralph will detect the Trojan asteroids’ chemical fingerprints, the statement said.

L’Ralph allows scientists to interpret data provided by the Sun’s reflected light that are the fingerprints of different elements and compounds.

These data could provide clues about how organic molecules form in primitive bodies, a process that might also have led to the emergence of life on Earth.

L’Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
L’Ralph needs to have many capabilities in a small, light body structure to keep the spacecraft efficient and the mission productive.Flickr

Its instrument suite contains the Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA), both of which are fed by the same optics, meaning that Ralph can observe both visible and infrared wavelengths.

These dual capabilities are what makes Ralph and its cousin L’Ralph so special, according to Dennis Reuter, the instrument principal investigator for L’Ralph.

“Most instruments can image visible or infrared wavelengths, but L’Ralph can do both,” said Reuter.

Also Read: Mars Curiosity Rover Returns Back To Work: NASA

Compared to the Ralph that flies with New Horizons, Lucy’s L’Ralph has enhanced technology. It can detect a broader spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, it has a moving mirror that reflects light into L’Ralph instead of requiring movements of the entire spacecraft.

Ralph’s infrared detectors are 2,000 pixels square, compared to New Horizons Ralph’s 256 by 256, allowing for images with more detail. (IANS)