Astronomy enthusiasts in and around the city have been watching the rare conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, two planets visible from the Earth’s night sky, aligned with the Moon in a visually straight line in March.
Conjunctions occur when two planets and a star, a planet and a star or a planet and the Moon seem to be very close when viewed from the Earth.
In the March phenomenon, Venus, the brightest planet of the solar system, passed Jupiter, the largest one, while orbiting the Sun, and while doing so, showed Venus’s phases and Jupiter’s moons — in the same field-of-view with a pair of binoculars or a telescope.
Though they appeared to be within 0.52 degrees apart during the conjunction, in reality the distance between Venus and Jupiter is approximately 400 million kilometres.
The visual spectacle is likely to recur once in several years.
“The conjunction of the Moon, Venus and Jupiter was the closest on March 1-2. Stargazers can still spot the planets, though they are increasingly divergent now, clearly from 6.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Tiruchi,” teacher and hobby astronomer, K. Balakrishnan told The Hindu.
Mr. Balakrishnan arranged viewing sessions at the terrace of the Bharathi Matriculation School in KK Nagar, and also took photographs of the phenomenon.
A viewing session was also held by the Nakshatra astronomy club of National Institute of Technology – Tiruchi (NITT) at the Physics Department building in early March. “Our members were able to see the conjunction clearly in the early evening sky. It was a spectacular sight,” said club president R. Shiddartha.
Nakshatra also organised a special stargazing night programme for over 50 female NITT students on Sunday ahead of International Women’s Day, said Mr. Shiddartha.
At the Nehru Memorial College in Puthanampatti, the phenomenon was shown to students through telescope at a session coordinated by P. Ramesh, assistant professor, Department of Physics.