Venus, Jupiter 'pair up'
February 23, 1999
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Just after sunset Tuesday, the planets Venus and Jupiter appeared to "pair up" in the west-southwest sky for the first time in nearly a quarter century in an event known as a "conjunction."
The planets, which looked like bright stars low on the horizon, seemed almost to overlapped each other.
It marked the last time this century the two planets will pair up.
For people under clear skies, the conjunction was almost impossible to miss, as Venus and Jupiter were quite bright in the night sky.
Peak viewing time was half an hour to 1 1/2 hours after sunset. The planetary event was visible across the globe, but it was best viewed in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in western Europe and eastern North America.
Although the planets are now drifting apart, they will remain near each other in the night sky for several evenings. Of course, their appearance of being close together is an optical illusion -- in reality they are hundreds of millions of miles apart.
Venus appears as the brighter of the two, thanks to being closer to both the sun and to Earth.
Planetary conjunctions are relatively rare. The last time Venus and Jupiter paired up in the sky was February 17, 1975. The next Venus-Jupiter conjunction will come on August 27, 2016.
A close pairing of these two planets occurred on June 17, 2 B.C., and some people speculate that event might account for the Star of Bethlehem.
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