ST. LOUIS – Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest planets visible from Earth and have been easy to see recently in the evening twilight. The two planets have been creeping closer together all month, and they will reach conjunction on the evening of Wednesday, March 1, when they will be closest on our sky’s dome.
At conjunction, Venus will pass 0.5 degrees from Jupiter, about the width of a full moon. But clouds may obscure our view Wednesday, so check things out Tuesday evening. Night sky enthusiasts have already been taking lots of photos.
“Astrophotography is becoming really, really popular. We just had a class Saturday where we had a record number of students in it,” said Timothy Farmer, Schillers Camera.
If you have the right equipment, Farmer has some tips for you for getting a great shot of the planets.
“For something like tonight’s or tomorrow night’s viewing, I would use a long lens on my camera, something like a 600 or 800 millimeter lens,” he said. “The hardest part, we always think it is nighttime, so we want to open up and overexpose the planets. And then all you get are white dots. If you actually shut down your exposure, you’ll be able to see some of the details.”
But if all you have is your cellphone, you may want to pair it up with binoculars or a telescope.
“If you have a cellphone and a pair of binoculars or a telescope, but no way to connect it, you can simply put your phone up to this once you focus, and you will be able to get a decent shot of it,” Farmer said. “Ideally, you would like to get a telescope that has the ability to connect your phone straight to it or to put a camera onto.”
After Wednesday night, Venus will be higher in the sky as Jupiter sinks toward the horizon and the sun.
Another celestial phenomenon getting a lot of attention this week has been the Northern Lights. Aurora activity is expected to be high Tuesday night across Canada and the northern U.S. There is a slight chance of seeing some aurora low on the horizon here in the Midwest. I think St. Louis will be a bit too far south. But the closer you get to the Iowa border or central Illinois, the better those slight chances will be.