Doorstep Astronomy: Bright Morning Planets

Doorstep Astronomy: Bright Morning Planets
SKY MAP: The planets on Nov. 4 from mid-northern latitudes in the predawn.

The first week of November will be an exceptional time for predawn skywatchers with a beautiful gathering of the two brightest planets, and the waning crescent Moon will later drop by to join them.

Venus and Jupiter will appear closest together on the mornings of Nov. 4 and 5.

The moment of closest approach will actually come during the early evening hours of Nov. 4, unfortunately when this dynamic duo is below the horizon for North America. They'll be separated by just over ?-degree, roughly the apparent width of the Moon (the width of your fist, held at arm's length roughly corresponds to 10 degrees).

Generally speaking, at least for the immediate future, conjunctions between Venus and Jupiter will come in pairs. The first conjunction takes place in the morning sky, usually followed about 10 months later by another in the evening sky.

Then 2? years later, Venus and Jupiter are again in conjunction, again in the morning sky.

When Venus and Jupiter next get together, it will be in the evening sky late next summer, at the beginning of the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Future Venus-Jupiter conjunctions

The table below shows future Venus-Jupiter pairings in the coming decade.

DateVisible inSeparation

Nov. 4, 2004

Morning Sky

0.6-degrees

Sep. 2, 2005

Evening Sky

1.4-degrees

Feb. 1, 2008

Morning Sky

0.6-degrees

Dec. 1, 2008

Evening Sky

2.0-degrees

May 11, 2011

Morning Sky

0.6-degrees

March 15, 2012

Evening Sky

3.3-degrees

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Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.

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