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for catching!— Sarafina Nance (@starstrickenSF) December 23, 2019
Never seen Neptune? It’s time you should, and this weekend offers a fine time to try, as the faintest planet in the solar system approaches the brightest in the dusk sky, for a splendid conjunction of the pair.
This approach culminates as a fine conjunction of the two planets Venus and Neptune on January 27th at 20:00 Universal Time (UT)/3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST), at just a 1/10th of a degree or 6’ apart. This is only a fifth of the diameter of a Full Moon, and easy opportunity to nab both in the same low power field of view.
Venus - Versus - Neptune - Evening - January
Venus versus Neptune on the evening of January 27th. Credit: Stellarium.
This is actually part of a series of close Venus versus Neptune conjunctions for the 21st century. An even more spectacular pass of the pair occurs next on April 7th 2022, when the pair are just 20” apart, sitting just 43 degrees western elongation from the Sun in the dawn sky. 2020 marks the second of five close passes of Venus-versus-Neptune passes for the current century.
View - Evening - January - Note - Mercury
The view on the evening of January 27th, looking west. Note that Mercury is just nudging its way into the view. Credit: Stellarium.
During the coming week, Venus is 40 degrees east of the Sun, shining at -4th magnitude with a 75% illuminated, 15” disk on January 27th, versus Neptune at a paltry +8th magnitude with a disk only 2.2” across. This 12 magnitude difference between the two makes for an over 63,000 times contrast in brightness, making Neptune a tough, though not impossible catch near dazzling Venus. Venus is currently bright enough to spy against a deep blue sky before sunset, and can actually cast a shadow against the high contrast of newly fallen snow after sunset.
Tough - Venus - Meets - Neptune
Tough, but not impossible… Venus meets Neptune in early 2017....
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