Wake up to see Venus and Jupiter before dawn

In this Dec. 1, 2008 file photo, the moon is illuminated in close proximity to Venus and Jupiter, on the top, during a spectacular display of celestial rare phenomenon called a planetary occultation, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File)

WASHINGTON — Hey, Space Placers!

If you haven’t seen Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky before dawn, you need to wake up 45 minutes before sunrise to get out and look. See my previous blog for background and a pic.

At their closest on the morning of August 18, the two brightest planets in the solar system will be close enough to view in a telescope at low magnification.

Depending on your viewing location, they will be separated by a half-degree or less — the size of your little finger at arms-width.

The key to seeing the planetary pair is having a clear view of the ENE horizon and hopefully no intervening clouds or haze close to the horizon. If you have binoculars, they will enhance the view immensely.

You can read more about this sky-watching treat here and here.

I’ll be at Shenandoah National Park on August 17, giving my third “Let’s Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park” presentation: “The James Webb Space Telescope.”

The talk begins 9 p.m. in the Massanutten Room at Big Meadows Lodge. Afterwards, if it’s clear, we will have a sky-watching session at Big Meadows.

My hope is to get a pic of the dazzling duo on Monday morning. I will take my new wide field 80mm refractor out to view the pair and attempt to get some pics to share.

You can try to get a pic too by mounting your camera on a tripod and using a telephoto lens to capture the pair. Take multiple exposures trying to get a faster shutter speed to cut down on pre-dawn glare.

Let’s hope for clear skies and great pics!

Follow my daily blog and Twitter, @SkyGuyinVA, to keep up with the latest news in astronomy and space exploration. You can email me at skyguyinva@gmail.com.

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