Venus, Jupiter and the Moon get close and personal

For all you star-watchers out there, there is an amazing event happening up in the heavens over the next couple of days. Have a look at this article* on the NASA Science website.

You will be able to see Venus and Jupiter getting closer to each other – and they get really close and personal with the crescent Moon on the 1st of December. The best time to see this is just after sunset, between 19.30 and 20.00 SA time – look towards the western skies, just a little above the horizon.

Last year I found a software package called ‘Stellarium’, available free of charge on the internet from here. The blurb says:

“Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.”

It’s really easy to use, and you can move backwards and forwards through time, as well as pause, zoom in and zoom out. (There’s a pile of other things you can do too, but I’m very much a beginner with the software and know almost zilch about astronomy.) So that’s how I was able to figure out the approximate time when the two planets and our Moon would be visible in the sky, and the direction in which to look. Here are some screen-captures. If you click on them, you can get the larger image:

28 November 2008: Here you can see the moon really close to the horizon, just above the sun. Venus and Jupiter are fairly close together but higher up.

28 Nov 2008

28 Nov 2008

29 November 2008: The moon is a little higher up in the sky.

29 Nov 2008

29 Nov 2008

30 November 2008: It’s getting closer still.

30 Nov 2008

30 Nov 2008

01 December 2008: D-Day!!! Isn’t this awesome?

01 Dec 2008

01 Dec 2008

At this time, the moon will just be a sliver, as you can see if you zoom in on the image.

The crescent moon

The crescent moon

02 December 2008: The moon has moved further up into the sky.

02 Dec 2008

02 Dec 2008

03 December 2008: Venus and Jupiter are a two-some once more, as the moon gets closer to Neptune.

03 Dec 2008

03 Dec 2008

Don’t you think this is amazing???

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*Big thank you to Cara for sending me this link.

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