Sunday, 8 September 2013
If you have clear, cloud and haze-free skies this afternoon, you might have a good chance to find Venus with the unaided eye during the daytime. For old-timers this is not a major feat, but if you have never done it before, here’s your chance. The Moon is a thin crescent, and difficult to see. I suggest that you use binoculars (focus on infinity BEFORE you try this, as there will be precious little to focus on in the sky other than the Moon and Venus, which is what you will need to be focused to find).
It is easiest to locate the Moon first, then Venus. The Moon is kind of a landmark. The best time may be around 5 pm EDT, 4 pm CDT, 3 pm MDT and 2 pm PDF. If you face the direction of the Sun at those times in the various time zones, the Moon will be roughly 40 degrees to the left (East) and perhaps slightly above the level of the Sun. Forty degrees is roughly twice the distance between the tip of your little finger and the tip of your thumb when stretched out wide and held at arm’s length: http://is.gd/loSKLJ.
Depending on your exact geographical location, Venus will be approximately one degree above the Moon. (One degree is about twice the apparent full width of the Moon). From different geographical locations the appearance will be slightly different, but from Denver at about 3 p.m., the Moon will be nearly due South in the sky, and roughly 37 degrees high. (That’s a bit more than one third the way from the horizon to the zenith.) The image here is from Starry Night software, set for 3 pm today as viewed from Denver.
If you can’t find it at this time, try again about 30 minutes before local sunset, keeping in mind that everything will have moved significantly to the West by that time. The Moon and Venus at that time will be in the Southwest from most all locations, with Venus slightly to the right of the Moon.
Of course this is not the only chance you will ever have to catch Venus in a daytime sky, but it is convenient to have the Moon nearby to find Venus in the bright sky.
If you miss it while the Sun is still in the sky, take a look low to the Southwest just after sunset. The two should make a gorgeous sight in the darkening sky. But don’t wait too late, they will set just a little more than an hour after the Sun.
Obligatory warning: Whatever you do, be careful and do not look directly at the Sun with your eyes and especially do not look at it with binoculars!
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