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Jupiter Encounters Venus in the Morning

The planets Jupiter and Venus will make an apparent close approach to each other on the early morning of Friday, 5th November. When Jupiter rises above the eastern horizon at 4.07 a.m. for Northern Ireland viewers, it will be just about one Moon-width away from the much more brilliant Venus.

This event is of course only a line-of-sight effect. In reality, a vast distance will separate the planets. Jupiter, the solar system's largest known planet, will be over 740 million kilometres more distant than Venus, the so-called 'morning star'. From an observing site with a low eastern horizon and clear skies, the two planets should make an impressive sight and provide a good photo opportunity.

Interestingly, on the morning of 6th May 6 BC, these same two planets were in a similar relative position in the eastern sky, leading some to speculate that this was the Star of Bethlehem. At that time, however, they had a considerably greater angular separation than they will have on 5th November. Encounters of less than, or about, half a degree apparent separation between Venus and Jupiter currently happen world-wide on average about every three years.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; jmfarm.ac.uk

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Last Revised: 2004 October 29th
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