An interesting planetary conjunction for telescope users on January 12th. Brilliant Venus passes within half a degree of the distant ice giant Neptune.
The southwestern aspect of the sky, just before 7pm, looks like this:
This Stellarium rendition of the sky shows that Mars is not too far away from Venus in the sky as well. And the planet Uranus (needing at least binoculars) is high in the sky in the constellation Pisces.
Zooming in a bit on Venus to simulate the telescopic view:
Venus is 51% illuminated (very nearly half-full) and shining at magnitude -4.4. The distance to Venus is 102.1 million km. By contrast, Neptune is 45 times further away (4.6 billion km) and shining at magnitude +7.9.
It's an interesting scene to visualise on software (like Stellarium, above) but it might much more difficult to get a real picture. Venus is around 80,000 times brighter than Neptune. Exposing to capture the phase of Venus won't be long enough to capture a glimpse of Neptune. However, a greatly overexposed Venus should allow Neptune to be picked up in the same view.
The best view - if you can do it - will be with your own eye at a telescope eyepiece.
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Dr Adrian Jannetta. Amateur astronomer, maths teacher and science enthusiast.