We've had a busy day today, and a certain small boy was hovering on the edge of a meltdown as we were walking home. In the midst of a discussion about why I hadn't got an apple that he could eat, he suddenly shouted "look at the moon" and pointed to the crescent shape in the sky. We admired it and then he said "what's that bright spot near the moon, is that the space station?". I didn't know, and I explained that it could either be a planet or a star as we concluded it couldn't be the ISS because it wasn't moving.  I undertook to find out what it was when we got home, and the small boy was eager for me to do this literally as soon as we stepped through the front door. A bit of assistance from the internet and we discovered that it was Venus! 

The moon and (about half way up, on the right) Venus

The small boy was very excited to see another planet with his own eyes for the first time and insisted I took a photo.  I took a short and a long exposure which you can see below.

Venus - short exposure

The internet also revealed that the space station would be passing over us a little later, and he was very keen to see it and wave to the astronauts on board. We went outside at the right time (part way through dinner!) and spotted it passing over us. There was about a minute when he could see the moon, Venus and the ISS at once! He was very excited indeed.

Venus - long exposure

We spent the rest of dinner talking about planets, and how Venus is closer to the Sun and hotter than the oven I had cooked dinner in. We also talked about how if you went in a rocket it would take less time to get to the ISS than the moon and it would take a lot longer to get to Venus because it is much further away.  He asked lots of questions about planets and stars and why they are different, and I tried to answer them, but I think I'm going to have to do a bit more reading myself to prepare for his inevitable next round of questions - my molecular biology PhD doesn't really provide a good grounding in explaining astronomy and astrophysics to a 3 year old...

Crescent moon

We had a look at my photos on my computer and he could see the craters on the moon and the round shape of Venus when we zoomed in. Thanks to that little speck of light in the sky I had a happy boy rather than a grumpy one this evening!