Click the image to see the story at Sky & Telescope online.
Planets pair up every so often, but rarely is their dance so intimate. During Venus and Jupiter's embrace shortly before dawn tomorrow (Monday, August 18), they'll be separated by only 1/3° or less - that's thinner than your pinky at full-arm extension. It's the very best planet hookup of the year, and the closest pairing these two have had this century. Here's what they'll look like in binoculars or through a telescope using a low-power eyepiece:
Their tight dance will be brief. Each morning, Jupiter rises a little higher from his eastern bed and Venus lingers a little longer near ol' Sol. The bed they share tomorrow morning is M44, the Beehive Cluster, which will reward augmented viewing:
If you're up before dawn, don't forget to look east toward sunrise and watch two of the brightest planetary bodies embrace!
Writing update: Finished my second story in the "Jupiter Whispers" series (which will one day join to form a novel). This one's called "Orpheus' Engines," at least for now, and tallies up to almost exactly 7000 words. Turned out way more econo-political than I'd expected! Chock-full of alien and human communication issues, with lots of Jupiter imagery to set the mood.
Finally, while we're on the topic of Jupiter, how about some bonus photos! First a gorgeous animated gif of the planet rotating:
Click the image to see the Astronominsk page full of more great shots like this.
Finally, check out this amazing 3D animated gif! Put on those old blue-red 3D glasses if you have 'em to enjoy the full effect: