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Venus and Jupiter shine together over Rome (photo)

Venus (lower left) and Jupiter during a close conjunction over Rome on May 1, 2022.
Venus (lower left) and Jupiter during a close conjunction over Rome on May 1, 2022. (Image credit: Gianluca Masi)

A new image captures two planets with ancient significance meeting up over the famous old city of Rome on Sunday (May 1).

Venus and Jupiter shone together between the clouds in the image taken by Gianluca Masi, who runs astronomical livestreams for the Virtual Telescope Project (opens in new tab)

He spotted the duo in the morning sky during a conjunction, or close approach in the sky. Conjunctions occur from time to time, because the eight official planets all orbit in the ecliptic, the plane of our solar system.

"Thin clouds made possible to see a wonderful colored corona around Venus, due
to diffraction of its light by individual small water droplets," Masi said in an email. He also spotted some Jovian moons, with Europa, Ganymede and Callisto all visible around Jupiter, he said.

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There are records of ancient Romans worshipping both Venus and Jupiter, according to Britannica. Imperial Rome ran between roughly 31 BCE to 476 CE, with a period of republicanism for five centuries before.

Capitoline Jupiter, atop Capitoline Hill, was the oldest known temple of the chief pagan deity, Britannica wrote (opens in new tab). "Here there was a tradition of his sacred tree, the oak," the encyclopedia stated. "Here, too, were kept the lapides silices — pebbles or flint stones — which were used in symbolic ceremonies by the fetiales, the Roman priests who officially declared war or made treaties on behalf of the Roman state."

Venus was identified with the goddess Aphrodite sometime during the republican era, especially via the famous cult (religious branch) of Venus Erycina imported from nearby Sicily, Britannica said (opens in new tab)

A temple was dedicated to the goddess in Rome in 215 BCE, during the Second Punic War that eventually saw the defeat of the iconic Carthaginian general Hannibal. Publius Cornelius Scipio — the general leading the Romans at the Battle of Zama in 202 BC — received the moniker "Scipio Africanus" following his victory.

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Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc (opens in new tab). in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.