Do you know the definition of a conjunction? Two or more planets appearing close to a planetbound observer. Twelve conjunctions will occur this calendar year, though half involve a planet you will need binoculars to observe.
A good home project for the aspiring young astronomer involves next month’s Venus-Jupiter encounter. These planets are the brightest objects in the post-sunset west. Over the next several weeks a casual observer will be able to see their relative positions change until they appear just three degrees apart in mid-March. (Three degrees is about the width of three fingers held at arm’s length.)
A more advanced home astronomer might try to determine which planet is moving faster through the sky. (Hint: you’ll need to reference movement with background stars or compare with objects on the horizon at the same time each evening.)
Check out today’s astronomy picture of the day, which feature not only two planets, but the mysterious zodiacal light.
EarthSky has a nice set of diagrams, plus a short video.
That image above (Bullit Marquez/Associated Press) shows the 2008 “smile face” conjunction which included the crescent moon.