Oh. My. Lord.
I grabbed my Christmas present from the family, a pair of 8×56 Celestron Skymaster binoculars, and went out specifically to view the conjunction.
Wow. Just… wow. I had mostly clear skies, and the seeing wasn’t great due to some high altitude moisture. Venus had a ring around it, it was so bright, and I could pick out Jupiter with no problem. Mercury couldn’t be seen at first except with the binoculars, but after about 20 minutes I could just make it out without them.
With the binocs, even against the skyglow, I could see 2 of the galilean moons. I could see visible discs on all three planets (well, a half-disk on Venus).
All three of the planets were set against the 5% crescent moon, and the four objects were just beautiful together. Every time I glanced up, until the moon set over the hills, the moon and Venus reminded me of a parachute and payload, falling up through the sky. I think it reminded me of the picture of the Phoenix lander that Phil Plait picked as his top picture of 2008. That’s the one that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped with the HIRISE camera while Phoenix was on the way down.
If you missed it tonight, you have two more chances. On Tuesday December 30, the moon will be slightly larger and higher in the sky, closer to Venus. On Wednesday December 31, the moon will be just above Venus, and Jupiter and Mercury will be about 1.3 degrees apart. This Week’s Sky at a Glance has some graphics of what you should be looking for.
UPDATE: Phil Plait also has an entry on his blog about the conjunction.
UPDATE 2: Tavi Greiner has photos here, here and here.