The sky’s two brightest planets – Venus and Jupiter – meet up for a conjunction on November 24, 2019. Venus, the brighter of the two, passes a scant 1.4 degrees south of Jupiter. For reference, that’s about the width of your index finger at an arm length.
To maximize your enjoyment of these dazzling worlds, be sure find an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunset. These two brilliant beauties will pop out low in the southwestern sky at dusk and hover rather close to the sunset point on the horizon. They’ll follow the sun below the horizon around nightfall.
Here are the approximate setting times for Venus and Jupiter at various latitudes:
35 degrees north latitude
Venus and Jupiter set about 1 hour and 40 minutes after sunset
Equator (0 degrees latitude)
Venus and Jupiter set about 1 hour and 50 minutes after sunset
35 degrees south latitude
Venus and Jupiter set about 2 hours after sunset
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You might catch Venus popping out into the evening twilight some 30 minutes (or less) after sunset, and then see Jupiter coming out 15 or so minutes after Venus first appears. The twosome should be pretty easy to see with the eye alone about one hour after sunset. But you can always use binoculars to spot these embracing worlds all the sooner after sundown.
The interval between successive Venus-Jupiter conjunctions can be a little as 10 months or as long as 15 months. The mean interval is 13 months. Most of the time, there is one and only one Venus-Jupiter conjunction in one calendar year (though it is possible to have none). The year 2019 stands as an exception because two Venus-Jupiter conjunctions happen in one year. These two different conjunctions occur 10 months apart, allowing for a Venus-Jupiter conjunction on January 22, 2019, and then again on November 24, 2019.
It appears that similar Venus-Jupiter conjunctions recur in periods of about 24 years plus 1 week, whereby Venus and Jupiter return to nearly the same place relative to the sun, the stars of the zodiac, and the horizon. Hence, similar Venus-Jupiter conjunctions occurred 24 years ago (January 14 and November 19, 1995) and will again take place 24 years from now (January 29 and November 29, 2043):
1995 Jan 14 (morning sky)
1995 Nov 19 (evening sky)
2019 Jan 22 (morning sky)
2019 Nov 24 (evening sky)
2043 Jan 29 (morning sky)
2043 Nov 29 (evening sky)
Roughly midway between these twofold Venus-Jupiter conjunction years (1995, 2019 and 2043), we find two Venus-Jupiter conjunctions in 2008 – and then 24 years later, two Venus-Jupiter conjunctions in 2032.
2008 Feb 1 (morning sky)
2008 Dec 1 (evening sky)
2032 Feb 7 (morning sky)
2032 Dec 8 (evening sky)
The elongation (angular separation of the Venus-Jupiter conjunction from the sun) was 46 degrees west of the sun on January 22, 2019, and 26 degrees east of the sun on November 24, 2019. The elongations are more or less similar (within a few degrees) throughout the series: 1995, 2019 and 2043.
Interestingly, the elongations are similar – yet reversed – in these in-between years of 2008 and 2032. In 1995, 2019 and 2043, the year’s first conjunction in the morning sky showcases the conjunction near its maximum possible elongation from the sun (46 degrees west); yet, in the years 2008 and 2032, it’s the year’s second conjunction in the evening sky that presents the conjunction near maximum elongation (46 degrees east).
(Note: When Venus is near inferior conjunction, Venus can actually conjunct Jupiter three times in four months. Venus first meets up with Jupiter going prograde (eastward in front of the stars), a second time when going retrograde (westward in front of the stars), and finally a third time when going prograde (eastward) again. For our purposes, we’re calling this three-peat performance a “single” event. This special type of triple conjunction last happened in 2015 and will next take place in 2036.)
Because Venus and Jupiter beam as the 3rd-brightest and 4th-brightest celestial bodies, respectively (after the sun and moon), Venus-Jupiter conjunctions are particularly spectacular and photogenic. While the time is at hand, witness the grand conjunction of Venus and Jupiter near the sunset point on the horizon as evening dusk deepens into nightfall.