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See Venus during the day!

Bad Astronomy
By Phil Plait
May 16, 2010 7:28 PMNov 20, 2019 3:37 AM


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[Update (17:00 MT): I did it! Just saw Venus, with the Sun still more than 34° above the horizon. It was very faint and difficult, but once I spotted it I had it nailed. Persistence pays off, me droogs.] On Twitter last night I mentioned that the thin crescent Moon was near Venus at sunset, and I got a lot of replies from people who ran outside to see. That was pretty nice! But that was just after the Sun had set for me here in Boulder, when the sky was getting darker and Venus was easy to spot. But Venus can be seen in broad daylight, if you know where to look! Today is a good day to try, because the Moon is still near the planet, and the Moon is slightly easier to find.

My advice is to try sometime after local noon. Go outside and find the Sun. Duh, that should be easy enough. At about 1:00 local time for you it should be in high in the south. This will put Venus and the Moon about 30° to the left (if you are in the northern hemisphere; reverse all this for the southern). When I make a fist with my arm fully outstretched, it spans about 10°. I have a big hand, so YMMV. But something like three fist-spans away from the Sun, parallel with the horizon, you should be able to see a very thin crescent Moon. It won't be easy to spot; binoculars might help. Be careful not to look at the Sun though! [Edited to add: don't let kids or people inexperienced with binoculars try this; if they look at the Sun through the binocs Bad Things can happen. Looking at the sky won't hurt, but looking right at the Sun will potentially damage your eye. In fact, your best bet is to put the Sun behind a roof or a building of some sort, which not only prevents you from hurting yourself, but also makes it easier to spot the Moon.] Once you spot the Moon, Venus will be easier. It's just about 7-8 degrees to the right of and slightly above the Moon, between the Moon and the Sun, but much closer to the Moon (most standard binoculars have a 6° field of view, so Venus will be a little more than one FOV away from the Moon). The diagram above shows the configuration as I'll see it here in Boulder, Colorado at about 1:30 p.m. local time. Hopefully that'll help you find it. Finding Venus in the daytime isn't all that easy, and can be frustrating. If you can't find it, don't sweat it. But if you do, I think you'll be amazed. I still remember the first time I did, when I was about 15. It's weird to see something that looks like a star when the Sun is blazing away, so it's worth the effort. By tomorrow (Monday) the Moon will have moved farther to the east (left), so it'll be farther from Venus, making this harder to do. So try for it today!

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