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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.

o-JUPITER-VENUS-570
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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Jupiter’s Moon, Europa Covered In Thick Snow: NASA

NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper in the 2020s.

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Jupiter, Europa, NASA
Ice blades cover Jupiter's moon Europa: Study. Pixabay

Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa is probably covered with blades of ice up to 15 meters tall in its equatorial regions, making alien life search difficult, NASA researchers have found.

The potentially life-supporting Europa has been studied by NASA, whose work has become more difficult due to the ice towers, Xinhua news agency reported.

Europa, Jupiter, NASA
Europa (Moon) · Artist’s concept of Europa and Jupiter , NASA

“Clearly, the paper suggests very strongly that the tropics of Europa are going to be spiky, and it would be unwise to plan to land there without a specially adapted lander,” said Dan Hobley, lead author of the study and a lecturer in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University.

Jagged ice towers could also be found on Earth, especially in high, dry and cold tropical regions like the Chilean Andes. These ice towers are named “penitentes”, Spanish for “penitent”, because they often look like people kneeling in penance.

Scientists found that penitentes on Europa could be up to 15 meters tall, spaced about seven meters apart, while on Earth their height usually ranges from one to five meters.

Europa, Jupiter, NASA
These ice towers are named “penitentes”, Spanish for “penitent. IANS

 

“The Europa penitentes grow much slower than the Earth examples, but on Earth they might be restricted to a season or maybe two until they melt in summer or get covered in more snow, but on Europa, they are sat out in the sun growing for 50 million years,” Hobley explained.

Also Read: A Dozen New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter

NASA plans to launch a mission called Europa Clipper in the 2020s.

At a cost of $2 billion, the mission will “perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon from a long, looping orbit around Jupiter”, assess the possible landing site on Europa and try to seek out signs of life on the moon. (IANS)