Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter

By Phil Plait | December 1, 2008 10:13 pm

On December 1, Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon made this pretty formation in the sky:

That shot was taken on my little department store digital camera. All I did was mount it on a good tripod and bracket the exposure (that is, take a bunch of shots with different exposure times). I knew my neighbor’s tree would make an interesting sight in a longish (10 second) exposure, and tried to balance the foreground objects. The glowing clouds were a nice bonus.

My point is, taking pretty shots of astronomical events is not terribly hard, and if you have even basic equipment you should take the opportunity to try.

Search Flickr for "Venus Moon Jupiter" to see tons of results from folks who took photos of this remarkable event. Dave Mosher on Discovery’s blog has more, as does Scott Hurst, and pretty much every other astronomy blog out there. It’s nice to see so many folks giving this a shot. If you have a picture online, link to it in the comments and let others see how yours look!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (76)

  1. Jarrad

    To us in Adelaide, Australia the orientation was very different and we had an almost perfect smiley face :)

  2. Sman

    Dog gone clouds! I missed it.

  3. Mooselet

    Like Jarrad, I’m in Australia – in Brisbane – and got to see a nice smiley face as I drove to work last night. It made me smile, too! :-)

  4. Heh, your picture is a bit sharper than my attempt.

  5. That’s a pretty nice picture, Phil. Too bad I missed it! I didn’t even know… Ah, well, that’s what the Internet is for, I suppose.

  6. Awesome shot. Wish I was able to capture the surroundings a bit more like you’ve done, looks festive and atmospheric…

    Was a hard job avoiding the undergrowth, balancing my little Canon on a folded pile of business cards (I knew they’d have a use) and avoiding standing on the wildlife bare footed, but I caught the trio pretty nicely from the back yard. I’m very impressed with how much you can do with a standard 5megapixel digital camera :-)

  7. BMarley

    Venus Jupiter whatever, there’s a ghost floating out from that lit tree! This picture must have been leaked from Phil’s computer!

  8. I was very keen to see the not-upside-down smiley face down here, but we had lots of cloud cover and high winds. Such a shame since the previous night, when the three were not so happy, it was a perfect night!

  9. Wendy

    Jarrad: Smiley face!!! COOL!!!

    Missed it up here in Vancouver, BC. It poured rain all day. What else is new?!

  10. Clouds got in my way of seeing the occultation itself, but still made for a nice time-lapse sunset…

  11. Jack Mitcham

    I saw it tonight. It was absolutely beautiful. It was one of the only times where being near the big city lights was useful. The only objects visible in that part of the sky were the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter. Nothing else.

    Sadly, my iPhone picture couldn’t resolve Jupiter, and could barely render Venus as a speck.

  12. Wow… my shots look pretty boring by comparison.

  13. I am from Malaysia…
    I saw a smiley last nite.
    Hey!!! The moon is smiling to me!!!

  14. Under the clouds just North of Vancouver… :(

  15. C

    I love my home, I love Portland, I even love the rain.

    But I hate it when I miss stuff like this. Like tonight.

    Also missed the Leonids in 1999.

    Is it true I missed several hundred with each blink?


  16. Supernova

    Too cloudy here in Denver for a good look — thanks for the nice shot!

  17. Here’s my pic of the magical event, taken in Melbourne, Australia.
    It was very bright and cloudless last night, so I didn’t even need a tripod!

  18. Lucky enough to have a crisp clear day, I saw the occultation through binoculars, perched halfway up the fire escape at the building where I work (Fareham, UK). It was fascinating, though a darker sky would have improved the show. I was quite busy at work, but managed to pop out after dark and see Venus just after it emerged from the other side – that was pretty cool.

  19. Today I used the proximity of the Moon to see Venus during the day time. It’s the second time I’ve managed to do that.

  20. Logan

    I woke up so bummed out that it was snowing. I didn’t think I was going to be able to see it, but with a slight break in the clouds at 6, just as I was heading out to school, I got a really peak at event. It was awesome!

  21. Rob

    A few shots from Arecibo (link is to my album on Facebook), where the clouds cleared just as the sky got dark enough. The foreground is fairly interesting astronomically as well :)

  22. Stu

    Fantastic view from here in the UK… at sunset the Moon was occulting Venus, and when the planet reappeared from behind the Moon the view was incredible… :-)

  23. I’m constantly amazed what I can get from my basic DSLR and a 100mm prime lens. I can make out two of Jupiter’s moons from a shot last night, and have on previous occasions been able to see the odd nebula that would be completely invisible to the naked eye. Can’t wait to get myself a decent zoom! My photos from last night are in the link.

  24. Hugh

    The BBC has a gallery of photos taken of the three of them too…

  25. Michiel

    Living in The Netherlands I missed both the conjunction and the occultation because of cloud cover. Bummer.

  26. It was cloudy in my place when the sun sets, and I’m sort of giving up hope of seeing the conjunction. But the Moon and planets are bright enough to poke through the clouds. It’s really amazing to see the sky smiling at you… Some photos:

    (btw I’m observing in Malaysia, a small country in south east asia.)

  27. Navneeth

    My smiley is up here… couldn’t get a decent foreground, though. Hence the up-close-and-personal smiley.

  28. mosesfoo

    Here at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it was a right way smiley, something like the little hobbit of the imagination. : )

    it was something like below but upright of course…


  29. Al

    Ten tenths cloud here, so no pictures :-(

  30. Grace

    I saw it last night. Cool!!! A smiley face…

  31. Jeff H

    Fantastic view here in SE England. At one point it looked like the moon had a silver earring!

  32. joe

    nice picture. i am in the philippines. i am happy cause it was perfect smiling face here. its my first time actually so i am so happy.

  33. w_nightshde

    My wife took my 5-year old son out to see it while I was at work. My family is super-fantastico. ūüėÄ

  34. w_nightshde

    Actually, she took him out to watch Venus emerge from behind the moon as a bump of light. Which was even niftier.

  35. Here’s yet a few more pics of the Smiley Face Venus-Moon-Jupiter trio, as seen from Quezon City, Philippines:

  36. Thomas Miller

    I’ve been counting down to this joining of Jupiter and Venus since the beginning of November and of course for the past week it’s been nothing but clouds.

  37. Dr Fish

    Here in Sydney there was plenty of publicity about the smiley face that we were to see last night (monday). So that pretty much ensured that there was solid cloud all evening…

    Did manage to see the upside-down grumpy face tonight though!

  38. Jesus is looking down on us with sadness.

  39. Annette

    Here in New Brunswick we have had complete cloud cover for weeks… I am not a happy camper. ūüėČ

  40. Was pretty cloudy all day here in College Park, MD so I had actually given up on any hope of seeing the conjunction… However, about 5 minutes before I had to head off to my evening class, started getting phone calls about what the bright “stars” are beside the Moon (I run the campus observatory)… After dutifully answering that the “stars” were actually the planets Venus and Jupiter, I hopped up and ran to the car to get my tripod and set the camera up and took a couple of shots. Headed off to class and took some more with the students in the foreground. Will get the pics downloaded and posted this morning…

  41. NDT

    My view from Portland, OR on 11/30/08 – too much cloud cover on 12/01 :-(

  42. Michelle

    Stupid clouds! I missed it!

  43. I didn’t have a tripod handy, so I tried to take a pic by resting the camera on something solid. I haven’t downloaded the pictures yet, so maybe later I’ll have a chance to look it over.

  44. BlondeReb3

    I saw it in Boston as I was headed to the train and again in Providence as I got off. Someone I was sitting with commented on the stars and I got to correct her. So proud! :-) And beautiful!

  45. We got the smiley-face effect here in Thailand.

    They’re saying that the next smiley-phenomenon will occur in 44 more years. Can anybody answer the following: how long, if ever, must one wait to see a smiley with a nose? (say, the moon, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars).

  46. I was able to get a few shots near Little Sweden, USA, also known as Lindsborg, KS.

    What was cool was noticing Jupiter’s moons when I zoomed all the way in on my monitor.

    Anyway, photos at my site:

  47. hale-bopp

    I got a couple Monday night…you can see the best at

    Last night there were some low clouds here right over the Moon..didn’t come out well, but it was still pretty visually.

  48. gopher65

    My dad got a pretty good shot of the Sunday conjunction with his Nikon D300. It was better than the shot the BBC used in their article, at least.

  49. Heidi Andereson

    My son called me into the sunroom last night to look at it. The only reason that I knew what they were was from NPR and your site.

    It was gorgeous!

  50. Great photo!

    It was pretty cloudy and rainy here in the last few months, it was rainy on December 1st, but at night it was perfect (Thanks, Flying Spaghetti Monster)! I took lots of images with my digital camera, and I made a set with the best ones on Flickr. You can click my name to see it. ūüėõ

    I saw lots of meteors too. (4 in a row!)

  51. kuhnigget

    @ Navneeth (and others)

    Great shot!

    It was spectacular from my home in Pasadena. Unfortunately my cheapo camera didn’t work too well. Now I just have to rely on memory…which is sort of like trying to carry water in a very leaky bucket.

  52. It rained most of the day here, but when I left work the sky was absolutely clear and I had a chance to view this. What a wonderful sight.

  53. Patrick

    We were able to see it for a bit down in Westminster, CO, then the clouds took out Venus and Jupiter. It was pretty cool.

  54. Tim

    Down here in Colorado Springs it was nice and clear when I was outside – the orientation was such when I saw it when I headed out of the office it was an almost-perfect frowny-face. I got a good laugh.

    Sadly, some clouds had blown in and blocked that part of the sky by the time I got home, so I couldn’t get the kids out to see it.

  55. Shannon S.
  56. On the humorous side, the nuts over at GLP are talking about how this is a sign of the apocalypse. Is there anything that isn’t a sign of the apocalypse to these people?

  57. JB of Brisbane

    This site had tipped me off about it, and on Monday night here in Brisbane my father and I were driving home from dinner at our local services club, when I heard them talking about it on ABC radio. So I looked up to the southwest, and there it was :) My father couldn’t see it until we turned into our driveway. Sorry, no pics.

  58. Rowan Bulpit

    I saw this, then rushed home to get my camera! Here is what I saw at 10:30pm in Melbourne, Australia.

  59. boo

    Sadly, we were clouded out, but it is very nice to enjoy the sight vicariously through pictures – thanks to everyone for sharing!

  60. Paul S.

    I wasn’t able to catch it because everything had set by the time I got home from work, plus it was partly cloudy. I did see Venus and Jupiter together in the sky over the weekend, though. That was pretty impressive by itself.

  61. Mena

    Thanks to everyone who is posting links to their pictures. You guys are taking some amazing photos!

  62. BethK

    I think Stu wins for the occultation pictures. Sorry if I missed any others like that up there.

    Mine is from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

  63. I saw it from Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. When i am out of my office in evening .It was looking very beautiful.

  64. Tom Ogletree

    That’s nice Phil, I tried using my Treo Centro smart phone and my 10×50 binocs to catch it but I could not hold them still long enough. Even bracing them on my truck didn’t help much. Ken, One of my fellow NJ Night Skies buddies got a good one. See

  65. lan

    a heavenly smile was displayed in the philippines :)

  66. The smiling face (The Jupiter, Venus and the moon) in Thailand was very clear and fantastic.

  67. You can see many pictures from the website. :)

  68. I really saw that. I saw it accidentally when i’m shotting picture to my house
    when i saw a smiley face in the sky. I thought it was only my imaginations
    occuring like real, but i watch news on the night, and i realize that the smiley
    face on the sky was two planets and one moon (i thought it was 2 stars that
    aligns above the moon!!) Awesome alignment!!! i will take that picture
    a hundred times!!!

  69. John

    My wife and I were taking our dogs for a walk on 2nd December 2008 at about 08:30 pm when we

    saw the Moon, Venus and Jupiter on the left of the Grey High School Tower, in Port

    Elizabeth, South Africa. We went home, fetched our cellphone, returned and took this picture

    (at 08:59 pm). The cellphone is a Nokia N95 8GB cellphone with a Carl Zeiss 5 Megapixel

    lens. Want to put a picture on Youtube? It’s easy. Use Windows Movie Maker to convert the

    picture into a video. Make the video about a minute long. Windows Movie Maker comes with



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