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Closest conjunction of two planets in 2014 before sunrise August 18

2014-aug18-venus-jupiter-solo

Tonight for August 17, 2014

The waning moon appears close to the star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster before dawn on Monday, August 18.

Also, before dawn on Monday, August 18, watch for the waning moon close to the star Aldebaran – fiery eye of the Bull in Taurus – and the Pleiades star cluster, aka the Seven Sisters.

Wake up 90 to 60 minutes before sunrise on August 18, 2014 to witness the closest conjunction of two planets for all of 2014. It’s not just any two planets, but the sky’s brightest planets – Venus and Jupiter. They’ll be low in the sky, in the direction of sunrise. You’ll need an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunrise to see them. They’ll be wonderful! We last saw them together in this way around the time of the planetary trio of May 2013 – when Mercury joined Venus and Jupiter on the sky’s dome. They were not this close in 2013, though. In fact, Venus and Jupiter haven’t paired so closely since 2000.

If you are clouded out on August 18, don’t despair. These two worlds will remain near each other for some days. The moon is also in the predawn sky now, and it’ll be above the planets on August 22. Then be sure to look on August 23 for a spectacularly beautiful early morning scene with the moon, Venus and Jupiter.

With binoculars, you might – or might not – see the Beehive star cluster in the same field of view with Venus and Saturn.

This conjunction is very close for observers in North America, and even better for European observers. Closest approach of 13′ (0.2°) happens around 5:00 UTC, that is, around midnight in the central U.S. (when the planets have not risen yet) and around dawn in central Europe.

Check out these great photos of the great Venus and Jupiter conjunction unfolding before dawn

Recommended almanacs can help you find rising times of the moon and planets in your sky

Think photo opportunity! Year's closest conjunction of two planets before sunrise, August 18. Read more

Here’s a more complete view of the eastern sky before dawn on August 18. Look for the stars Castor and Pollux above Venus and Jupiter. Binoculars will help you find the Beehive star cluster near the two planets.

The stars Castor and Pollux can be found above Venus in the east before dawn.  This photo, by Dennis Chabot on August 15, 2014, show Venus as it has just risen (before Jupiter has risen).

This photo, by Dennis Chabot on August 15, 2014, show Venus above a cloud bank in the east before dawn (Jupiter must be behind the cloud, or it hasn’t risen yet). The star Pollux in the constellation Gemini can be seen above Venus.

All in all, the morning of August 18 – and many mornings surrounding that date – should be spectacular. Venus and Jupiter rank as the third-and fourth-brightest sky objects, after the sun and moon. And there’s so much more to see in the predawn sky right now.

The constellation Orion is visible (and possibly the star Sirius) and can be found to the south (or right) of these embracing planets.

And the moon shines close to the ruddy star Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster on the morning of August 18.

Although Venus and Jupiter reside along the same line of sight right now, these two worlds are not close together in space. Venus and Jupiter lie about 1.61 and 6.23 astronomical units from Earth, respectively. An astronomical unit is one Earth-distance from the sun.

In the days and weeks ahead, watch for Jupiter to climb upward while Venus sinks downward. At mid-northern latitudes, Venus and Jupiter now rise approximately one and one-half hours before the sun. By around September 10, 2014, Venus will rise about one hour before the sun while Jupiter will rise a whopping 3 hours before sunrise.

EarthSky Facebook friend Mohamed Laaifat Photographies in Normandy, France captured this photo of Venus and Jupiter on August 16, 2014.  Thank you, Mohamed.

EarthSky Facebook friend Mohamed Laaifat Photographies in Normandy, France captured this photo of Venus and Jupiter on August 16, 2014. Thank you, Mohamed.

Don't stop watching after August 18!  The moon is in the predawn sky now, too, and will be sweeping past the planets this week.  Here is the view Friday morning, August 22.

Don’t stop watching after August 18! The moon is in the predawn sky now, too, and will be sweeping past the planets this week. Here is the view Friday morning, August 22.

Here is the view Saturday morning, August 23.  Venus, Jupiter and the waning moon will be a spectacular sight on this morning, low in the east before sunup.

Here is the view Saturday morning, August 23. Venus, Jupiter and the waning moon will be a spectacular sight on this morning, low in the east before sunup.

Looking for the info on the telescopic view? Try this article at skyandtelescope.com

Bottom line: Enjoy the closest conjunction of two planets – Venus and Jupiter – in the eastern sky as darkness ebbs into dawn on the morning of August 18, 2014.