Diagram showing the position of Venus and Jupiter from 6 to 26 March 2012 at two day intervals as seen from Sydney at 8:15 pm AEDT. Jupiter’s position on 16 March is not shown. On 26 March a thin crescent Moon moves between the two planets. To give an indication of scale a bar of 10° length is shown. Note that a closed fist at arm’s length subtends approximately 10°. Diagram Nick Lomb
During this month March 2012 low in the north-west two bright objects can be seen in the sky. No, they are not aircraft landing lights, but the two brightest planets in the sky, Venus and Jupiter. Each evening they are in a slightly different position with respect to each other. The two planets are closest from 11 to 15 March with only three degrees or six moon-widths separating the planets at their closest.
If the weather is bad, as it has been in Sydney lately, do not worry. Arguably, the best sight will be on 26 March when the crescent Moon moves between the two bright planets. That will definitely be worth seeing and photographing.
It is relatively easy to photograph such bright planets, with or without the Moon. A tripod is needed to provide firm support for the camera, which needs to be able to make time exposures. Try a range of exposures from 1 second and longer. Also try different zoom settings. A flash should not be used unless you have a nearby tree or plant that you want to illuminate to provide a better composed image.
Conjunctions of Venus and Jupiter do happen every few years and are always worth observing. The most recent similar conjunction was the wonderful ‘smiley face’ one of 1 December 2008 when the Moon joined the two bright planets to form a smiling face. It was cloudy in Sydney on the night, but there was still a good view on the next evening.
Good luck with observing the two close planets this month!
Venus & Jupiter on 10 March 2012. Taken with a small camera on a tripod, two seconds exposure and 4x zoom. Photo Nick Lomb
Venus & Jupiter on 12 March 2012. Taken with a small camera on a tripod, two seconds exposure and 4x zoom. Photo Nick Lomb