Looking west in twilight

Don't miss the Venus-Saturn conjunction on June 30th and July 1st!

Sky & Telescope diagram

It's always a treat to view a planet through a telescope. The pleasure is far greater on the rare occasions when two planets fit side by side in a single telescopic field of view.

On Saturday and Sunday evenings, June 30th and July 1st, for observers all around the world, Venus and Saturn will be within 50' of each other. That means that they will fit together comfortably in the field of view of most telescopes at 50x — ample magnification to show both Saturn's magnificent rings and Venus's crescent phase.

Venus is the brightest celestial object besides the Sun and Moon, making this pairing exceptionally simple to locate. Both planets should be easy to see fairly high in the western sky a half hour after sunset. Even if you don't own a telescope, you'll get spectacular views through binoculars or with your unaided eyes.

Through a telescope, the planets will probably look best within an hour after sunset. At this point they'll still be fairly high, and the bright sky will help to tame Venus's otherwise overwhelming brilliance. Saturn, on the other hand, will become increasingly spectacular as the sky grows darker. The two planets appear roughly similar in size if you include Saturn's rings as part of the planet. But Venus is brighter by far because it's so much closer to the Sun.

The very closest approach (just under 40') occurs at 9:34 Universal Time on July 1st, and is viewable only over the Pacific Ocean. For observers in North America, the planets are slightly closer to each other on Saturday than on Sunday. But Venus and Saturn make a spectacular pair even on Friday and Monday evenings, just a little more than 1° apart.


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