By Phil Plait | September 1, 2005 9:50 pm

Thursday night, Venus and Jupiter made their closest approach in the western sky after sunset. It’s been interesting watching them
getting closer every night!

Below are the images from every night this week, starting on Sunday August 28.

August 28, 2005 August 29, 2005
August 30, 2005 August 31, 2005
September 1, 2005

When that last image was taken, Venus and Jupiter were about 1.25 degrees apart– less than 3 times the size of the Moon. I could easily cover them both with my thumb. I could also see a difference in color– Venus was a brilliant white, but Jupiter looked duller, a little more yellow. In the image, you can see the famous San Francisco fog trying to ruin the shot.

Oh, and an added bonus! When I was out on Wednesday night, the International Space Station (ISS) passed almost directly overhead. I hastily aimed my camera and managed to squeeze in a single shot.

It was a 30 second exposure, and ISS entered into the frame from the upper right. The exposure ended before it left the frame. It wasn’t fully dark yet, so the sky is a bit blue. The bright star near the top is Gienah, also called Epsilon Cygni. The star below ISS is Zeta Cygni.

It’s been quite a week of observing! And next week, on September 6, the new Moon will be in the picture as well. I’ll get another image of that if the fog doesn’t come back by then!


Comments (12)

  1. Phil, I’m so glad that fog stayed out of your shot. My observing was ruined by a nasty southerly buster and the accompanying cold front that brought thick cloud for the whole evening.

    If I just tilt my head over to the side, I can imagine I’ve seen it for myself by looking at your images.

  2. Blooming marvelous, nice photos Phil.

  3. Tara

    Too many clouds in my part of the SF Bay to see anything last night.

    I guess I will just have to content myself with your pictures.

  4. Thank you for that post. Truly wonderful.

  5. scotia47

    Excellent photos, especially the one of the ISS. Never even occurred to me that it could be seen by the naked eye.

  6. Richard Board

    Thanks for the great photos, Phil. It has been overcast every night for the last 10 days at my WV home on the Ohio River – until last night, when the skies cleared beautifully. I was still unable to see the planetary conjuction, because I didn’t get outside until almost midnight (Friday night high school football). I’m hoping to see the beautiful king and queen of the planets tonight. I’ve been starved for sky gazing for nearly a month, because of poor “seeing.” It’s reassuring to find all of the stars and plantets just where my Starry Night software said they would be! Unlike astrologers and other soothsayers, science can and does predict the future accurately.

  7. hotjupiter

    Thanks so much for this! Because of it I was able to go out Wednesday night and recognize what I was seeing; being in Toronto and having no idea what time I was out, I have no idea if it was the ISS I saw, but I did see some sort of distant satellite-type thing pass. Very cool!

  8. Richard Board

    Finally! Last night (9/7) I was able to see the beautiful conjunction of a four-day-old crescent moon, Venus and Jupiter aligned from east to west just after sunset. I was driving home toward the setting sun and the sky was absolutely perfect – completely clear, low humidity – great seeing. The moon was obvious long before the sun had slipped below the horizon, Venus appeared very brightly just as the sun reached the horizon, and Jupiter came out a few minutes after sunset. I was so distracted from my driving that I stopped along the highway and just watched the scene for 10 minutes. Then I tried to get home in time to try my luck at photographing the conjuction, but I was too late. I’ll try again tonight, since I’ll be home and the forecast is similar to last night. I hope my wide angle lens will take in the whole scene, since they cover a wide expanse of sky – I’m guessing 15 degrees or more. How cool is this stuff!?

  9. Richard Board

    Alas, my attempts at astrophotography were not successful Thursday. Yes, the sky was clear and the celestial objects appeared on cue; but my skill at capturing digital images was not up to the task. I was also amazed at how far apart the three objects appeared, compared to the night before, when I saw them from the highway. I’m going to need lots more practice at this, but it was still fun. If you want to see a really beautiful photo of the conjunction, go to and check out what is possible with skill and experience.

  10. art


    Was in daughter back yeard and notice them in the night… Did not know about Jupter but knew one was venis.. Had a great view last week here
    in middle tennessee

  11. JusANuttaBackYahdah

    Have been watching the conjunction also with much enjoyment and have been blessed with a great stretch of weather here in NH. Yes, Richard Board when the crescent moon was added it was a fabulous site & don’t stop with the picture taking, practice, practice. To scotia47 & hotjupiter, if you’re interested in viewing the ISS go to; enter your location info in the almanac section; after setting up click on more info in almanac and you’ll see any visible passes for the ISS with exact times and sky locations. I use this site often and get great info for sky watches
    Clear skies to all

  12. CR

    Well, I got some pics back I took on 28 August 2005 of Jupiter & Venus over a lake. One out of five turned out clear; the others were slightly blurry because I was holding my camera’s shutter open by hand with no tripod. (You’d think the large boulder I rested the camera on would have been stable, but obviously, the photographer was not… take that in more than one way! ūüėČ )
    This next point’s off topic, but in a way, it ties in with Phil’s ISS pic above… Tonight (just about an hour ago), I was sitting on a neighbor’s front porch when I noticed a bright light in the sky approaching roughly from the west. It was too fast to be a plane, so I immediately guessed it was a satellite. As it passed nearly overhead, I was awed by how bright the thing was, and realized it might actually be the ISS. I (along with the neighbors and their kids) kept tracking it until it became lost in the glare of the full moon, then went inside to my house & did a quick internet search to find out where the ISS was. We had indeed seen the space station!


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