Chances improving for daytime Venus sightings

8Sep13_SWYour chances of observing Venus in broad daylight are improving, now through the end of the year.

The image to the left shows the orientation of the crescent moon and Venus as seen from Denver, looking southwest, about a half hour from sunset on September 8, 2013. The exact orientation from other locations will be slightly different. (Produced with Starry Night software.)

Venus is the brightest natural object in the sky other than the sun and the moon (not counting some short-lived meteors and comets). In fact it is often so bright that it is easily viewed by the unaided human eye during daylight hours. It is not always easy, though.

Although Venus is frequently bright enough to see in the daytime sky, it is very small and inconspicuous. As such it is often overlooked, much like “Waldo” in the “Where’s Waldo” comics. The easiest way to find it is to have something more easily found nearby from which you can navigate to the otherwise inconspicuous planet. This is like having a “landmark” in the sky.

Generally, the best landmark in your quest to see Venus in the daytime is the moon. Over the next six months, the crescent moon will pass near Venus in the daytime sky on a number of dates:

June 10
July 9 & 10
August 8 & 9
September 7 & 8
October 7 & 8
November 6
December 5

Of these dates, September 8 is the best, because the moon appears closest to Venus on that date, but the other dates offer reasonable chances. The specifics depend on your specific geographical location, but there are some general rules to follow:

1) Get some good (free) software so you can set up the exact orientation of the moon and Venus in your sky on the specific date. There are lots of options here, but the great value of the software is to allow you to see the exact orientation and distance between the moon and Venus in your sky.

2) Start with binoculars. Very thin crescent moons, such as are to be found with the June through August dates, are themselves hard to find, so binoculars can be a great help.

3) Look about a half hour before sunset. Although we don’t necessarily notice it, the sky actually begins to darken when the sun nears the horizon, even before it actually sets. This can make it easier to find the moon and Venus.

4) If you don’t find it on one opportunity, try again. The dates listed merely represent the best and most convenient opportunities, not your only chances. Using good software, properly configured, can greatly increase your chances.

For more things to see in the daytime sky, see my previous article:

Larry Sessions


About Starman

Cosmic Awareness Facilitator. Astronomy, space, physics, science, planets, cosmology, reason, logic, clouds, sky phenomena, the environment, dogs and other animals, and other interesting stuff.
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