Venus to meet the Pleiades after eight years on April 3: All you need to know
New Delhi : After eight years, the brightest planet and the best-known open cluster will come together and it will be nothing less than a treat to watch for stargazers on April 3.
Especially for viewers in North America, this year Venus will pass a mere 1/4 degree south of Alcyone, the brightest star in the cluster. For viewers farther east, the planet will brush by Merope, instead.
To understand why this happens every eight-year, it must be noted that Venus and Earth are in what's a called a near resonance. So while orbiting around the sun on its axis, the planets come to an exact same position in every eight years.
In fact, Venus crosses the cluster often but it is in once in every eight years when it passes through the cluster. Since the orbital paths of Venus and Earth are elliptical and not perfect circles, this resonance effect is imprecise.
In addition, Venus's orbit is tilted with respect to Earth's path around the Sun by 3.4 degrees, which results in slightly different albeit similar passages every eight years.
This can be seen without any need for optical equipment, but binoculars will definitely enhance the view. Those who have access to a small telescope with a wide-field eyepiece should see Venus as a tiny, fat illuminated crescent.
"Don't despair if the weather forecast is dismal for your location this coming Friday," said Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope's Observing Editor.
"During several evenings before and several evenings after the event, Venus is still pretty close to the Pleiades and will make for a delightful scene nevertheless. So, go outside, starting tonight, and look up," Diana added.
If you are the one who cannot access the sky during this period then, the event will also be live-streamed at Gianluca Masi's Virtual Telescope site starting at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time or 11.30 pm IST on 3 April.