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‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetary Conjunction to Appear Tuesday Night

By Abigail Wilkinson | June 30, 2015 | 5:15pm EDT
Photo of a moon, Venus and Jupiter conjuction that occurred in February, 2015. (NASA)

Venus and Jupiter will be "a jaw-dropping one-third of a degree apart" in the night sky on the night of June 30, less than the diameter of a full moon, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The conjunction, or close pairing of the two brightest planets in the solar system, will be easily visible to the naked eye.

"On June 30, Venus and Jupiter will appear so close together - just 1/3 inch apart - that they'll look like a tight, brilliant double star in the evening sky. You'll be able to cover both with the tip of an outstretched pinky finger," according to Sky & Telescope contributing editor Fred Schaaf.

Schaaf added that this series of conjunctions strongly resembles one that occurred in 3-2 B.C. that has been suggested as the Star of Bethlehem which led the Three Magi to the birthplace of the Infant Jesus.

“The conjunction of June 30, 2015 is the best one we will have in the evening for quite some time,” according to Rice University astronomy professor Patrick Hartigan. “Look to the west-northwest as soon as it gets dark.”

The planets were 20 inches apart in the night sky at the beginning of June and the distance has been shrinking over the past few weeks. They will be just about an inch apart again this fall on October 26.

Conjunctions between Jupiter and Venus are not uncommon, though Hartigan says that the conjunction on the night of June 30 will be the closest for many years, rivalled only by the one that will occur on March 1, 2023. 

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