Astrophotographers: The Moon, Venus and Jupiter will form a smiley face in the sky next month

Apr 2, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Astrophotographers: The Moon, Venus and Jupiter will form a smiley face in the sky next month

Apr 2, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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UPDATE: there will be no smiley in the sky tonight. What we thought of as a smiley, will be a rare conjunction (close pairing) of Venus and Mercury.

As Forbes points out, on May 22, 2020  you will see the bright planet Venus about 10º above the horizon. Look just beneath it and you’ll see the tiny red dot of the planet Mercury. They will be just 0.5º apart

It’s almost like a great cosmic “It’ll be ok”, but next month, on May 16th, to be precise, a crescent moon will sit in the sky beneath Jupiter and Venus to form a smiley face amongst the stars. The scientific term for such an event is an occultation and in this case, it happens when the moon is positioned between Earth and Venus.

The timing of such an event might seem like a sign from above, but they’re not as uncommon as you might think. It was visible in 2008 from Asia and 2012 from Australia to North America. But they are easy to miss, only being visible for a short period after sunset.

McGill Media writes that the phenomenon should be visible from across the world next month, although whether or not you’ll actually be able to spot it will depend on where you live and the nearby light pollution. But with much of the world shut down, the sky might not be as bright as it normally is at this time of year.

The earth actually appears to pass close to Venus every month, although both of them lining up with Jupiter happens much less frequently, although still only every few years (we just aren’t often able to see it because of the time it happens). They are, however, the three brightest celestial objects in our night sky. Here’s what it looked like in 2008.

YouTube video

Maybe it is a cosmic sign. Or, perhaps it’s just coincidence. But, next month, the skies will be looking down on us and smiling. So, have a little hope.

Even though you may be stuck at home, it might be worth setting the tripod up and relaxing with an age-appropriate beverage of choice. On your own property. With just the people you live with. Don’t invite anybody over to watch it with you.

[via McGill Media]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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15 responses to “Astrophotographers: The Moon, Venus and Jupiter will form a smiley face in the sky next month”

  1. Kevin McLin Avatar
    Kevin McLin

    April Fool’s comes a day late?

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      No.

      1. Kevin McLin Avatar
        Kevin McLin

        Oh okay, then I’m confused. On May 16th the moon is going to be a waning crescent. It will be west of the Sun, so setting before the sun in the evening, rising before it in the morning. Jupiter is farther west still. Something like 45 degrees west.

        Venus, on the other hand, is east of the sun. It rises after the sun rises and sets shortly after the sun sets. Since Venus is on the opposite side of the Sun from Jupiter and the moon, I am having a really difficult time understanding how they will all come together to make a smiley face.

        Or maybe you mean Saturn, not Venus. Saturn is right next to Jupiter in the sky. So I guess maybe Jupiter, Saturn and the moon could form some sort of a “smiley face,” though they are not particularly close to one another. And Mars would be their bright (or dull) red nose?

        Reading this article, coming as it did on April 2nd, I just assumed it was a joke. And also because Earth and Venus do not appear to come close to one another every month. I don’t even know what you mean by that sentence. Further, no amount of light pollution is likely to impact your ability to see the moon, Venus or Jupiter, two of which are visible in full daylight if you know where to look, and finally because on the date you mention, only Venus is visible in the evening sky. The other two objects are visible in the morning sky before the sun comes up on that day.

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          If you look at the embedded Tweet, it was posted at the end of March, before ANY timezone in the world had hit April 1st.

          But hey, you’re obviously an astrophysicist, so I shall bow to your expertise. :)

          1. Kevin McLin Avatar
            Kevin McLin

            Yep, been doing astronomy for a long, long time. But you don’t have to trust my expertise. I just happened to notice Venus in the sky a couple of evenings ago, right as the Sun was setting. I didn’t see Jupiter anywhere close by. Because it is far off to the east on the other side of the sky. It was right near the Milky Way center last summer, and it has not yet come back around this year. So I fired up some planetarium software to check this claim.

            These sorts of hoaxes pop up all the time. The Internet just makes them too easy, I guess. One of the most persistent is the “Mars will appear in the sky larger than the full moon.” That one tends to come around each August. But since Mars is small and quite far away, the chance of this actually happening is an excellent approximation to zero.

            If you don’t have planetarium software on your computer, there is an online version that can be used to check on the positions of objects in the sky. Don’t cost nuthin’ neither. https://stellarium-web.org/

            Happy viewing! And stay clear of any viruses.

          2. Krystal Cash Avatar
            Krystal Cash

            I have been doing astronomy for only a short time and also noticed the errors here. I want to know what planet the smiley face will be visible from because from Earth, Venus the moon and Jupiter will be pretty far spaced apart on May 16th. There will be no smiley face and i feel some people will be disappointed by this hoax.

  2. westom Avatar
    westom

    Folks – this actually did happen – but exactly 10 years ago – May 16, 2010. Somehow, people picked up on old Facebook posts and got an entire article written about something that isn’t happening. In fact, there are close to a dozen similar articles if you Google “smiley”. Once the genie is out of the bottle …

    1. Kevin McLin Avatar
      Kevin McLin

      It didn’t really happen. At least, not on the date you cite. Venus and the moon were close to one another in the sky on that date. Venus passed about one moon diameter from the moon. But that does not make a smiley face. Not even a one-eyed cyclops smiley face. Jupiter on that date, just as now, was on the other side of the sun.

      This is just a hoax, plain and simple. It’s easy to post claims like this on the web. Given the many planetarium software packages available, some absolutely free, it’s almost as easy to check them.

      1. MonkeyMan Avatar
        MonkeyMan

        Dec 1 2008 was the full smiley.

      2. Najah Avatar
        Najah

        Hey I have a question I live in CA right next to like the AZ border and NV border when is the best time for me to go outside and see all the shooting star things and when will I be able to see the smily. Face

  • Alyn Wallace Avatar
    Alyn Wallace

    Lol how did you fall for this

  • Kendra Perry Avatar
    Kendra Perry

    Pete Barron Media posted a later tweet acknowledging that this was incorrect. https://twitter.com/PeteBarronMedia/status/1245052883961290754?s=20

  • Shane Lear Avatar
    Shane Lear

    You guys have it all wrong, no way currently will Venus be near Jupiter, Jupiter and Saturn however, will be, as they are right now below the tail of Scorpio, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are in line in the same area of sky, but Venus will never ever be in that area of sky.

  • John Giroux Avatar
    John Giroux

    Messaged the “author”, but it’s still here. Also told him he might read comments on his crap from time to time, but it’s still here. Typical.

  • TRUEHIGHLANDER Avatar
    TRUEHIGHLANDER

    FALSE NEWS created from the original story out of a Philippine news outlet on May 16, 2010. In 2008 this never occurred either. Venus is alone in the western sky and Jupiter and Saturn are together throughout the night, but the Moon comes up late by itself and will not be at Crescent tomorrow evening as predicted and definitely not positioned as in the photographs in this article. See this article for the truth: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2020/05/01/no-there-wont-be-a-smiley-face-in-the-night-sky-in-may-but-something-else-will-make-you-happy/#12c99f495872