On the morning of November 13, look to the eastern horizon around 6 a.m. local time or an hour before sunrise and you will witness what seems to be an odd sighting in the sky. Like a pair of “spooky eyes” or even a “UFO”, they are simply the two brightest planets of our solar system passing each other so no need to call the local police. First is the brilliant planet Venus (on the left) seen for the past weeks higher in the east. Venus is now sinking towards the horizon, soon to be lost behind the Sun. Jupiter (on the right) is climbing higher in the sky with each passing day.
These two planets appear closest on the 13th and continue to separate each morning afterward. On the morning of the 16th, the very thin waning crescent moon adds to this lovely photo op. This is an optical passage as the planets are physically separated by hundreds of millions of kilometres. The word planet derives from the Greek meaning “waunderers” as they move in their individual orbits against the starry patterns. In astronomical terms, the Bethlehem “Star of the Magi” as the extremely close approach of these two planets, appearing as one object on June 17, 2BC.
Known as “The Backyard Astronomer”, Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He is now honoured with renaming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator