Early risers were treated to a cosmic event on Monday morning as Venus and Jupiter appeared side by side in the skies.
The conjunction – which in astronomy describes a moment when two planets or other celestial objects appear in the same place in the sky – could be spotted by the naked eye on the east-southeast horizon before sunrise, just after 6am.
UK observers shared images of the marvel online, where Venus could be seen on the left and Jupiter on the right. Despite being hundreds of millions of miles apart, the event is not remarkably rare. Venus and Jupiter appeared together in 2015 and 2016, also on November 13.
Those who missed the event need not worry either. You will be able to see the two planets again on Tuesday morning, but they will not be as close together. According to Nasa, stargazers will be treated to another planetary pairing later this month, when Saturn will meet Mercury on the western horizon at dusk on the 24th and 28th.
Brendan Owens of the Royal Observatory Greenwich said conjunctions aren’t uncommon, but Monday morning’s event is a rarer occurrence because the planets appeared so close to each other. The astronomer said the two bodies were separated by “just over half the apparent size of the full moon in the sky”.
“These events show us celestial mechanics in action as we are orbiting the Sun along with the other planets on a roughly flat plane,” said Owens. “The planets closer to the Sun take a shorter time to orbit than those further out leading to plenty of opportunities to see a conjunction.”
“The cloudy atmospheres of both Venus and Jupiter are excellent mirrors for the Sun’s light making them easy to spot with the naked eye. “Although they won’t be as close tomorrow they will be easily identifiable low down towards the east southeast before sunrise, weather permitting, as two bright star-like objects.”