Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Close Encounter Between Venus and the Moon

Venus and the Moon are engaging in their dance the next few months in the evening sky. Tonight the crescent Moon was well below Venus.

Tomorrow night the Moon will be below Venus and Thursday night it will be just above Venus giving two more excellent opportunities to see this nice pairing in the night sky.

But that's not all. Venus is nice and far away from the Sun right now which and the Moon provides a useful guide to help see Venus during the day. I recommend using a program like Stellarium to help you out. Set it up for your location and time of observation. Be sure the Moon and Venus are up in the sky during the day. Note the position of Venus relative to the Moon. Now you are ready to track down Venus in broad daylight.

Find the Moon and slowly scan away from the Moon toward where Venus should be located according to Stellarium. You really have to look directly at Venus to see it during the day. That is, the image of Venus must land on the fovea of your eye. The fovea is the small spot in the center of your retina where the cones are most closely spaced and your vision is most acute. Once you hit that spot, Venus will pop into view so prominently you will wonder how you missed it before.

It takes some practice. Be sure your eyes are focused at infinity (focus on the Moon before you scan will do the trick). It also helps if you stand so the Sun is hidden Sun behind a tree or building to cut down on glare.

Many people wait until close to sunset to try this, but I have seen Venus practically any time it is up, even in the middle of the day. A good strategy might be to try it near sunset on Wednesday night and if you are successful, try it during the day on Thursday.

Happy observing!

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.


OKIE said...

Wow - if you get a chance everyone look outside.

Hale - thanks for posting such a great picture. The real thing is better though...:}

OrbsCorbs said...

Beautiful picture, hale. I won't be seeing Venus in the daytime, but it's nice to know how.

drewzepmeister said...

Took a chance to see the Northern Lights last night. Not sure that we saw anything.

kkdither said...

You had us find this daytime treasure once before, if I remember correctly. I was able to do it that time.

It has been warmer than normal for winter around here, lately, but I still find myself rushing in. Every year the temperature seems to feel colder. I do have a nice western view window from the house. I do most of my winter sky watching from there.