Feeling small in the universe

Jupiter (left) and Venus viewed above the Cahoon Memorial Park gazebo on March 1, 2023. Photo by Denny Wendell

If you had the opportunity in late February and early March to view two of our solar system’s planets in close conjunction, it was a special astronomical event. 

A conjunction is when two astronomical objects appear close to each other in the sky, as seen from our view on Earth. 

Venus and Jupiter could be seen together after sunset above the west-southwest horizon from Feb. 20 to March 3, with the closest approach of about the width of a pinky finger on March 1. 

These two planets appeared close in size even though Venus has a 3,760 mile radius, only slightly smaller than Earth, while Jupiter has a 43,441 mile radius, 11 times Earth’s size. 

Venus has no moons, while Jupiter has 92-plus moons. Ganymede is Jupiter’s largest moon and the largest in the solar system. It is bigger than the planet Mercury and nearly half the diameter of Earth. 

The planets can still be observed in the western sky at dusk and after, but they are farther apart with Venus being above Jupiter.

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Volume 15, Issue 4, Posted 4:51 PM, 03.07.2023