Venus, the second-closest planet to the sun named after the Roman goddess of love, and Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar system named after the Roman god Jupiter, are set to “hug” each other closely in the night sky in the next few days. And, on December 1st, our own little space traveler, the moon, will slide silently into the duo’s presence as it displays a tiny, waxing, crescent sliver complemented by “earth light.”
The gap between the two planets has been closing slowly all month. In early November, Jupiter appeared about 30° to Venus’ upper left. By November 30th, the separation will drop to just 2° — four times the Moon’s apparent diameter. That same evening, a waxing crescent Moon will lie 8° to Venus’ lower right. One night later – on December 1st – the Moon will enter the night picture and hang just 2.5° to Venus’ upper left.
The two planets will appear closest November 30th – Sunday evening – but their progression towards each other is visible for several days on either side as they make a beeline for each other and then back off. Astronomy.com has a great “sky map” which can be adjusted for locations anywhere in the world.
What a treat this Thanksgiving and Christmas season – amidst the insanity of “Black Friday” and the commercialization of the entire month before Christmas – to be able to turn our eyes to the heavens and witness a heavenly get together. Although the three celestial objects come together from time to time, often they are too close to the sun or unite at a time when they aren’t so visible. The next time the three will be as close and visible as this week will be Nov. 18, 2052.
As we finish giving thanks this weekend with our families, take a moment to slow down, gaze toward the night sky, and enjoy this celestial gathering. I have no intention of missing this sight – I won’t be here the next time to witness it, so I will bundle up this evening and hope that clouds don’t get in my way to view this early Christmas present from the heavens.