Venus and Jupiter in evening show

Two bright planets are closing in for a spectacular conjunction with the Moon in the evening sky. Venus, which is steadily moving away from the Sun, meets Jupiter as it prepares to leave the night-time stage.

Both are brilliant objects, with Venus at magnitude -4 and Jupiter at magnitude -1.9, and visible soon after sunset in the south-west. If the sky is clear where you are, you can’t miss them even if you are surrounded by streetlights.

You will also notice if you watch from one night to the next how rapidly the two worlds are moving towards each other. They will be at their closest at around 0100UT o 1 December when they are just over two degrees apart.

Two nights later, the crescent Moon arrives on the scene to complete a stunning sight above the south-western horizon. And from much of Europe, there will be an added spectacle as Venus is covered, or occulted, by the Moon.

From the UK, the occultation begins in daylight with the Sun still above the horizon, but Venus will be easy to spot through a telescope or binoculars and possibly even the unaided eye. (Warning: If you use an optical instrument, make sure you do not point it anywhere near the Sun).

From London, Venus disappears behind the dark limb of the Moon at 15h 46m UT (3.46pm) and reappears from the bright crescent limb at 17h 16m (5.16pm). Times vary across other parts of the UK and Europe and don’t forget to allow for local time.

Because Venus shows a sizeable angle in the sky, it will not blink off and on like a star when it does its disappearing and reappearing acts. Instead each process will take 45 to 50 seconds.

Picture: The graphic, produced with the planetarium program Equinox, shows the view at 18h 15m on 1 December from London.

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