Daylight Venus, redux

Today I repeated my ‘Daylight Venus’ observation. All in all, it wasn’t too difficult. While I was standing outside my daughter’s classroom, waiting for the door to open so I could take her home, I spotted the crescent moon. Knowing that today and tomorrow were the days that the moon would be the closest to Venus, I shielded my eyes from the sun with my right hand, while I looked to the left of the moon for Venus. After a few minutes I spotted it, about two fingers-breadth away from the moon, to the left.

(No, I didn’t care that people were looking at me weird as I stood in the playground with my hands up in the air, peering at the sky. Some events are just too much fun for decorum!)

This was in full sunlight, at about 4:00 PM!

Tomorrow I’m going for a three-peat! The moon will be just above and to the left of Venus, and about the same distance away. Get out and take a look!

See also this post, and this one too.

Daylight Venus

Finding Venus in the daylight

Finding Venus in the daylight

Yes, it is possible to see Venus in the daylight.  Right now is a great time to try.  Find the moon, and about three degrees below it  and off to the right (West) will be a bright spot.   I just did it myself. WOOT!

UPDATE; January 30 2009: You can repeat the feat today. Venus will again be below and to the right of the moon.

Planets putting on a show for the new year

Moon, Venus, Jupiter & Mercury in conjuntion

In case you missed it over the last few nights ( See this, this and this ) the planets Venus, Jupiter and Mercury, along with the Moon, are putting on a fantastic show in the South-East (for us in the Northern Hemisphere) at sunset for the start of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.   So get outside tonight, December 31, 2008 and enjoy the show!

Most impressive, of course, is Venus at Mag -4.27, and nearing it’s maximum elongation (which occurs on January 14th) and maximum apparent magnitude (which occurs between January 30th and February 8th at Mag -4.45).     Venus will pop into visibility almost as soon as the sun sets.  Because of the elongation (tonight it will be 46° 34′ 4″ away from the sun) it will appear about 34° up from the horizon.  Depending on sky conditions, and your eyes, you may be able to pick it out in daylight by using the moon as a guide.

The moon will be a waxing crescent just above Venus, shining at Mag. -9.22.

Jupiter and Mercury will be down close to the horizon, so you’ll only have a few minutes to catch them.  Jupiter will be the brighter of the two at Mag. -1.50, and Mercury will shine at a none-too-shabby -0.78 (brighter than all stars except two; Sol and Sirius).

If you have a telescope handy, you can also catch Uranus and Neptune in the sky close to Venus.

Tavi Greiner has photos from Monday here, here and here.

UPDATE: The sun is getting into the act.  See the prominences here.

Observation Log: 20081229 17:30

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.

A moon, and four planets

If you’re into finding planets, a trio of naked-eye visible planets will bracket the waxing crescent moon tonight  ( December 29, 2008 ).   If you have clear skies tonight it’s definitely worth a trip outside just as the sun sets.

Moon and Four Planets

Moon and Four Planets

I’ve set up Stellarium for about a half-hour after Sunset (click the image for a larger version).   The moon is shown just below center of the picture, with Jupiter and Mercury below and to the right, and Venus and Neptune above and to the left.

Venus will be the easiest to spot, as it is almost Mag -5.   Jupiter ( Mag -1.88)  and Mercury (Mag 0.66)  will be harder to see, both because they are fainter and because they are immersed in the sunset glow.   However, if you have a good view of the western horizon you should have a good chance of seeing both.  Binoculars will enhance the view considerably.

Neptune is next to Venus, but you have no chance of seeing the Mag 7.95 planet of the Sea God unless you are using a scope, and even with a scope it’s going to be tough to spot against the sunset.

Also shown is the asteroid Juno, but buried in the sunset you have almost zero chance of seeing this tiny ( 300km ) object, even with a telescope.

Luna and Jupiter

Somebody better tell Juno to watch out, Luna’s going after her man… er… God.

I walked out this evening to see a pretty conjunction between the full moon (Luna to the Romans) and the planet Jupiter.  Pretty much the only thing visible in the southern sky, as the full moon was washing out everything else in my suburban neighborhood.

I tried to take a picture, but while I could get the moon pretty well, a high haze layer made Jupiter an undistinguished blob instead of the sharp point of light it appeared as to my eyes.