Sky spectacle that will be out of this world

WATCH THIS SPACE Left of the moon is Venus and, diagonally left and up, is Jupiter. Since this picture was taken the planets have moved closer and now appear almost side by side in the sky. Picture: Graham Bryant/Hampshire Astronomical Group/Clanfield Observatory
WATCH THIS SPACE Left of the moon is Venus and, diagonally left and up, is Jupiter. Since this picture was taken the planets have moved closer and now appear almost side by side in the sky. Picture: Graham Bryant/Hampshire Astronomical Group/Clanfield Observatory
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IT’S an awesome spectacle in the night sky that is not to be missed.

Stargazers are in for a treat tonight as Jupiter and Venus, will appear to be separated by just a few degrees.

The planets are 450m miles apart in space, but because they are aligned in the same direction from Earth they will appear very close. They will be at their closest tonight, but people will be able to see the spectacle for the next fortnight.

Local astronomers have spoken of their delight at seeing the phenomenon, known as a conjunction, which has already been seen over the past couple of nights.

Graham Bryant, chairman of Hampshire Astronomical Group, based at Clanfield Observatory, said: ‘It’s just a spectacular view.

‘It’s very bright. When I’m going to the observatory and it’s clear, I’m drawn to the spectacle of it. It’s been lovely to see. Because it’s in the evening, people are noticing it. As soon as it gets to 7pm or 8pm, as long as there is a good south to south western horizon, you can see it from the moment it gets dark.’

But it’s still touch and go whether people will be able to see the conjunction clearly tonight as fog and low cloud is forecast.

Mr Bryant added: ‘Tonight they are going to be as close together as they get.

‘Then they will start separating out. It will be a good spectacle for a few weeks, but as Jupiter goes behind the sun it’s going to get much fainter.

‘If the fog is thin, you get to see it. Venus is so bright it will shine through some thin fog, but ideally you want a clear sky.’

Robert Massey, of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: ‘Although conjunctions are not that rare, the interest in this one is a result of how spectacular it is. The two being so close together will be beautiful.’

In June Venus will appear to cross in front of the sun – and it will not happen again for another century.

To see the spectacle, look into the south-west sky. The two brightest stars in the sky are the two planets.