If you haven’t already, go over and look at today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. It’s an incredible shot of the Moon and Venus during last weekend’s conjunction.
I walked out the front door last night around 5:50 to pick up the mail, and immediately walked back in to get the camera, because this is what I saw:
My parents gave me a flexible mini-tripod for Christmas, and it proved very helpful here, as there was nowhere flat where I could set the camera and still get a good view. I ended up coiling it around a stair railing, which held the camera in place long enough to get a decent exposure.
I seriously thought about pulling my SLR camera out of the closet and seeing whether I had any film for it, but ultimately decided against it.
I saw the planet Venus four times on my walk to and from lunch today! Yes, in broad daylight!
Someone on Slashdot mentioned it was possible last week. I took it seriously because back in high school, I used to watch Venus fade into the brightening sky on winter mornings. Often I could still find it once I arrived at school, since I knew exactly where to look.
I tried unsuccessfully a couple of times over the past week, but today I had a ~20-minute walk mostly facing southward, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I used the Moon as a guide, trying to guess the distance based on how far apart they were last night. As I passed through a building’s shadow, I spotted a stationary white dot in the right area, a bit more than a hand span away from the crescent Moon in the direction of the sun, barely visible next to some wispy clouds. I couldn’t find any sign of a con trail, and it didn’t move, so it clearly wasn’t an airplane, but I was able to look away and back and still see it. Continue reading
Venus is apparently so bright this month that it’s casting visible shadows. Now that’s cool! Unfortunately, while I can see Venus perfectly well, there’s way too much light around to see anything resembling a Venusian shadow. I don’t think I’ll have a chance to drive out into the desert by sunset in the next few days.
This view of the Moon and Venus was taken from our apartment balcony earlier this evening.
I also took a picture yesterday, from the top of a parking structure near John Wayne Airport (we went to a show at UCI later that evening.) You can see the red trail an airplane left as it crossed the frame:
Having seen that pairing last night, I knew I had to be ready to catch it today! I figured the Moon would be a lot closer, but I hadn’t expected it to actually pass Venus tonight. It really gives you an idea of how far the Moon moves in 24 hours. (or, in this case, roughly 23 hours, since yesterday’s picture was taken at 6:00 and today’s was taken at 5:10).
To be honest, I wasn’t actually certain it was Venus. It was my first thought, because of the brightness and the color, but I kept thinking it was too far from the sun. I kept trying to convince myself it was Jupiter or maybe Saturn (it wasn’t red enough for Mars, and besides, I’d seen Mars on the other side of the sky the night before). When I looked it up and realized it was Venus, I started remembering my days in high school when I would walk to school for a 7:00am “zero period” class. In winter it would sometimes be just dark enough when I left to see the planets and the brightest stars. I would keep my eye on Venus as the sky brightened, trying to see how late I could still see it by knowing exactly where to look.