Venus and Jupiter will approach each other in the night sky on Wednesday (March 1) during a meeting of solar system record breakers, the hottest planet and the largest.
According to In the Sky (opens in new tab), during the close approach between the two planets, Venus and Jupiter will pass within just 29.4 arcminutes, or about half a degree, of each other. (Your clenched fist held at arm’s length covers about 10 degrees of sky.)
From New York City, the pairing will appear at about 6:04 p.m. EST (2304 GMT), when the two planets are around 23 degrees over the horizon to the west. Venus and Jupiter will then sink toward the horizon and will set around 2.5 hours after the sun. The moment of closest approach will occur at 12:05 a.m. EST (0505 GMT) on Thursday (March 2).
During the close approach, both planets will be in the constellation of Pisces. Venus will have a magnitude of -4.0, while Jupiter will have a magnitude of -2.1, with the minus prefix before both magnitudes indicating particularly bright objects over Earth.
“They will be close enough to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will also be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars,” In the Sky wrote.
The second planet from the sun, Venus is also the solar system’s hottest world. Venus is hotter than Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, because it possesses a thick atmosphere that traps heat and causes an extreme runaway greenhouse effect.
Surface temperatures on Venus get as hot as around 900 degrees Fahrenheit (475 degrees Celsius), which is sufficient to melt lead. The planet is also punctuated with volcanoes, some of which may still be active. Volcanic activity, if it is ongoing, may be helping to drive up temperatures by choking the atmosphere with greenhouse gases.
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Jupiter is much farther out in the solar system — it’s the fifth planet from the sun — and is therefore much cooler than Venus, with an average temperature of around minus 238 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 150 degrees Celsius).
While it loses the temperature contest, Jupiter can’t be challenged in terms of size. The massive gas giant has a diameter of around 88,846 miles (142,984 kilometers), while Venus’ diameter is just 7,520 miles (12,103 km). You could fit around 1,400 Venuses inside the gas giant.
This massive size difference means that, while Venus is much closer to Earth than Jupiter, the gas giant will still have a larger angular size in the night sky on Wednesday compared to the second planet from the sun. Jupiter will have an angular size of around 33″3, while the angular size of Venus will be 12″2.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of Venus and Jupiter during the close encounter, our guides for the best telescopes and best binoculars are a great place to start.
If you’re looking to snap photos of the night sky, check out our guide on how to photograph the moon, as well as our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.