Venus and Mars are two planets that NASA engineers have been researching in recent times. They’re the two closest planets to Earth, and the two planets that scientists believe could potentially harbor life in the future.
Skywatchers will be able to get a great glimpse at these two planets Monday night (July 12) when they will appear close together in the sky.
The planets are millions of miles away from each other, but a special occurrence called planetary conjunction will see them merge very close to each other in the sky.
“A conjunction means two or more bodies in space passing closely together in the sky,” says Giada Arney, Davinci Deputy Principal Investigator. “So, in this case, Venus and Mars will appear close together – only about a finger’s width apart in the sky.”
The planets are undergoing the conjunction during the entire month of July, but experts say that the night of July 12 into the morning of July 13 will be the closest that these planets will appear together.
“You can spot Venus and Mars if you look low in the Western sky, beginning about half an hour after sunset,” says Arney.
And if the two planets lining up weren’t already enough for those night sky viewers, the moon has just entered a new phase, and just a fraction of a sliver will be illuminated in the night, providing for an amazing sight.
This phenomenon isn’t exactly rare, with July being the first of three times that this conjunction will occur in the next eight months, but that doesn’t take away from the awe-inspiring views that are to come.
NASA recently selected two new missions to explore Venus, a planet that has been relatively unresearched for decades. Project Veritas will be orbiting Venus to map the surface and measure its properties in great detail. Project Davinci will see a probe get dropped into Venus’ atmosphere and take measurements of the atmosphere and photos of the surface of the planet as it drops to the ground.
NASA has been actively researching Mars, with its current Curiosity Rover actually on the surface of the planet getting high definition pictures and measurements in real-time. There are two other rovers on the planet currently, Perseverance and Insight.
Make sure to look up on Monday night and get a sight of the two planets together!