An astronomical event you can see from your backyard
Venus, which is the brightest planet or star in the sky, will be joined on November 24 by Jupiter, which will be the second brightest at this time. Look to the western horizon at around sunset to see these two heavenly objects together in the sky. It is a great opportunity for kids to have a chance to learn about night sky viewing without needing to leave the suburbs.
Photo of Venus and Jupiter courtesy of Brocken Inaglory @ wikimedia
Venus is called the morning star because it is only visible either in the morning or early evening. This is because it lies between Earth and the sun, so for most of the night it will be on the far side from us. When this divine lady visits us, it is always the brightest of all the planets and the stars.
Image of Venus courtesy of NASA
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and is the planet we Earth dwellers should be the most grateful for because it protects Earth by sucking up comets and asteroids with its powerful gravitational pull. It is usually the second brightest of the planets, which, along with Venus, makes it very easy to spot.
Image of Jupiter courtesy of NASA and the Hubble Telescope
Watching this conjunction is not very hard. In fact, both planets should be bright enough to be seen from suburban environments, though city centres might still have too much light pollution. The main thing that you need is a view of the western horizon.
Look towards the western horizon during dusk. Venus and Jupiter should become visible about 15 to 30 minutes after sunset. You will see 2 bright "stars" in the sky, and if you are in a suburban environment, they may be the main 2 stars visible. On the 24th they will only be 1.4 degrees apart, which is about the width of your finger when held up in front of you with an outstretched arm. They will remain visible for about an hour and half until they set.
On the days before and after the 24th, they will still also be close together. So you don't have to wait until that one night to spot them near each other in the sky.
Photographing a conjunction is also pretty easy. The planets will be visible at dusk, which means there will still be some light in the sky. This is the perfect time to take a photo with both the planets and terrain. The main thing you want is a tripod. If you are using a mobile phone, you can buy a phone tripod or adapters for regular camera tripods.
Image of a phone tripod courtesy of Ivan Radic @ Flickr
When you take the photograph you want a balance between the stars and the terrain, so you need to be able to adjust the length of the exposure. With mobile phones, you often need to download a night photography app that will help you do this. How good the results will be with a phone will depend on the quality of your phone's camera. The latest and most expensive phones having amazing cameras.
Photo of a Venus and Jupiter conjunction courtesy of cafuego @ Flickr
You may have looked to the sky and seen conjunctions before and not really paid much attention to them. But taking the opportunity to take your kids out to view conjunctions is very valuable. Often with urban and suburban living, we don't see much in the night sky, so we usually don't take time to watch the skies. But when the planets come together in the sky we can view them from our backyards and balconies.