The “smiley face” in the western sky at 9 pm Eastern summer time to be seen from eastern Australia, on 1 December 2008, drawn by Nick Lomb
As reported by Richard Macey in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald (29 November 2008) on Monday (1 December 2008) there will be a spectacular conjunction between the two planets Venus and Jupiter and the crescent Moon. Though the conjunction will be impressive from anywhere in the world, it will only smile on Australia and Australian longitudes almost in the form of a “smiley” emoticon. From the USA, for instance, the conjunction will be in the form of an upside down sad face.
I should emphasise that although the three brightest objects in night sky will appear to be bunched up close together in the sky that does not mean that they are actually close to each other. They are, in fact, just in the same line of sight. The Moon is the closest at about 400,000 km away from Earth. Venus is almost 400 times further away while Jupiter is almost six times further away. They are not close to each other at all.
If you can, try to photograph this event as photographing such bright objects provides an easy way into celestial photography. You will need a tripod and a digital camea with the ability to take a time exposure. Bracket your exposures by taking exposures for, say, 1, 2 and 3 seconds. It can be a little tricky to record the Moon with the correct crescent shape as it is so bright that it is usually overexposed. Turn off the flash as it does not help with distant objects unless you specifically want to record the foreground – a tree or a bush, for instance. When taking the image use the self-timer on the camera to trigger the shutter so that any vibrations have the time to dampen down.
If you take any good ones of the conjunction send low resolution versions to us here at Sydney Observatory – observatory-at-phm.gov.au (obviously replacing the symbol in the middle).
Let’s hope for clear skies for the event!
Addendum 1 December 2008: Two pictures from the previous evening. By tonight the Moon will have moved closer to the two “eyes” and will form the smiling mouth of the smiley.
Venus, Jupiter and the Moon on 30 November 2008. Image by expert amateur astronomer and variable star observer Peter Williams
An anonymously sent image of Venus, Jupiter and the Moon in the western sky on the evening of 30 November 2008. The planets and the Moon are streaked as it was a time exposure and everything in the sky moves once a day from east to west. But, what is the streak to the left of the Moon? My theory is that it was the landing lights of a plane approaching the camera and stopping abruptly at the end of the exposure. However, I am happy to listen to other suggestions.
Addendum 10 pm 1 December 2008. There are lots of frowns in Sydney as it has been cloudy. Here are three pictures from Colin who is 7 km west of Gunnedah, NSW to show what Sydneyites missed out on. Thanks Colin
Addendum 3 December 2008. Here are a couple of extra images of this triple conjunction.
The smiley face photographed from Sydney through cloud. Castle Hill at 8:30 pm on 1 December 2008 with Canon 300D, 70 – 300 lens, one second exposure at ISO 800. Photo Ken Petersen
The day after the smiley (2 December 2008) an upside frown was visible from Australia. Still spectacular though. Image slightly shaky as the camera was hand-held on a railing and not placed on a tripod. Image Nick Lomb