See Venus in broad daylight on Wednesday

By Phil Plait | March 20, 2007 9:14 pm

BABloggee nowoo reminded me of something: Venus and the moon are very close in the sky right now. I happened to catch them an hour after sunset, and they make a lovely couple.

But this propitious pairing allows you to try something that is in general very hard to do: see Venus in the middle of the day! By itself, Venus is tough to spot when the Sun is up, but the Moon — even when a thin crescent — is a lot easier. It’s not easy, just easier.

If you go out in the afternoon, say 3-ish or so, Venus and the Moon will be close to due south. How high above the horizon they are will depend on your position; go to Heavens Above to see where they will be (enter your coordinates or the nearest city and it’ll do the rest for you). Look for the crescent Moon… use binoculars if you have a pair (but be careful not to look anywhere near the Sun; I won’t be responsible for boiling aqueous humors).

Once you spot Venus in binoculars, keep your head and eyes in the same position and lower the binocs. Bang! Venus.

Well, again, this ain’t easy, and may take you a few minutes. But doing this method allowed me to see Venus in broad daylight many years ago. I’m hoping to be able to do it this time too, weather permitting.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (36)

  1. Navneeth

    Once you spot Venus in binoculars, keep your head and eyes in the same position and lower the binocs. Bang! Venus.

    Something is not right in those lines. ;)

  2. I managed to spot Venus in daylight four times over a one-week period in December 2005. I first spotted it using more-or-less this technique, except the day after the Moon passed it. I followed an imaginary line between the moon and the sun and started looking in the right area. After that, I could use landmarks over the next few days.

    One thing I found helps quite a bit is to put the sun behind a building. I found it much easier to spot Venus when my eyes were adjusted for sky, vs. sky with a big bright sun in the corner. Once I knew where to look, I was able to put it behind a tree limb or a light pole, but for that first sighting, shade was critical. This was without binoculars, though, so it might be easier with them.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to repeat the experience since then. I’ve been trying again recently, and I’ve gotten good at spotting Venus early, but I haven’t caught it in broad daylight yet. And for the last few weeks it’s just been way too hazy to try.

  3. Charlie in Dayton

    Once you spot Venus in binoculars, keep your head and eyes in the same position and lower the binocs. Bang! Venus.

    Yeah…some editing is required.

    However, I get the drift…interesting…if it don’t rain, I’ll give it a try.

  4. zeb

    I remember first doing this a while ago and being amazed. I also remember that once I found it, seeing it again was much easier (I could even look at a different part of the sky and still see it out of the corner of my eye!) Recently, I’ve been trying to see it again, but, with no reference point I have failed. I can’t wait till tomorrow. Thanks for the heads up, Phil!

  5. Chip

    Years ago I read a book by Japanese Zero pilot Subaro Sakai that mentioned Japanese pilots being required to spot the planet Venus naked eye and other “stars” (as he called them) in the daytime as part of their training.

    I’ve actually done it several times just by knowing generally where Venus should be without reference points. However, my eyes today aren’t what they were when I was 20.

    Some might say ‘impossible’ but with very careful preparation and locating it first with a telescope, I have just glimpsed Jupiter in the daytime too. If observing before and into dawn, Venus and Jupiter can be plotted and seen in the blue sky.

  6. If you go to APOD and search on “moon and venus” in the archives, you’ll get some nice pictures of them together, several in the day. This is easilty the most impressive to my mind: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap061030.html

  7. Rodrigo

    you should read: “Once you spot the Moon (not “Venus”) in binoculars, keep your head and eyes in the same position and lower the binocs. Bang! Venus.”

  8. Mark Hansen

    No, Phil has it right. All he needs to add is visible with the naked eye.
    “Once you spot Venus in binoculars, keep your head and eyes in the same position and lower the binocs. Bang! Venus visible with the naked eye.”

    I have been able to see Venus a few times in daylight skies and always find it easier during Winter. The sky seems just a little darker and Venus somewhat easier to spot.

  9. Ed Davies

    Something to be aware of: it’s very difficult to keep your eyes focused at infinity when there’s nothing in the field of view. It’s called empty field myopia or somesuch. I suspect training their eyes to get around that was why the Japanese pilots were required to look for Venus, etc, as it would help with spotting other aircraft a long way off. It’s a known problem for civilian pilots who are just trying to avoid bumping into other aeroplanes, let alone trying to shoot them down.

    A few small clouds or contrails (or the Moon) nearby will help if they don’t actually cover the planet. This is also why it can be really difficult to spot a planet or bright star early in the evening but once you’ve seen it it appears so bright you can’t believe you missed it only moments before.

  10. KellyT

    Can Venus be seen in its crescent phase with unaided vision?

    Ancient cultures often depicted Venus with curved horns. I
    wonder if they could see Venus in its crescent phase? I know
    some ancients saw the Galilean moons of Jupiter before Galileo
    did.

    Perhaps this week’s event will make for an interesting experiment.

  11. Phil,

    There have been a couple planets I’ve been able to see with the naked eye the past few weeks. I live just outside Omaha, Nebraska, and work a night job, and last night, on my way into work, the brightest object in the sky was mystifying to me.
    It was along the Western Horizon, and I’ve had no formal astronomical instruction so I couldn’t tell you Ascension or Declination.
    At 9PM CST, it was halfway between Cassiopeia and Orion and about halfway above the horizon and a line formed between the two previously mentioned constellations.
    I had suspected a planet, but for a few moments entertained the wild possibility that I was looking at something more noteworthy than a spectacular neighbor, perhaps even the light from a supernova reaching Earth! A quick Google search at the office confirmed that no Supernova was evident. It would have made some form of news, somewhere.

    My question is this?
    Is this the Daylight Venus you mention?

  12. I’m glad to have found your site. I’m currently doing my MFA thesis and writing a book of poetry inspired by pics from NASA. Nice posts!

  13. Has anyone here heard of “The Planetary Society” ? They send me solicitations from time to time, the most recent emblazoned with Carl Sagan’s likeness… Are they above board, or are they some pseudo-astronomy organization that just wants money?

    Certainly I’ve never heard of them, but they seem to have heard of me.

  14. ABR

    Hey, cool — it works! I found it helpful to not only block out the sun with a tree, but position myself so that Venus was just above a branch of said tree. Then, when I lowered the binoculars, I had a better reference point than the crescent moon. Thanks!

  15. Has anyone managed to see Sirius during the day?

  16. Steve

    Bloody cloudy in Colorado…

  17. Senor Molinero

    Thanks for the tip BA. I have seen daylight Venus before, purely by accident. A word to the wise though. Please don’t be Americacentric in your directions. Those in the northern winter will need to look due south. Those of us in the southern tropical summer will need to look roughly overhead scanning along an east-west axis depending on the time of day.
    Keep up the good work.

  18. jokermage

    Didn’t catch it during the day, but I did see at dusk.

    http://s6.photobucket.com/albums/y228/jokermage/?action=view&current=moonvenus.flv

    At least I hope that’s Venus.

  19. Couldn’t see it today, as it was cloudy. In fact, we’ve got severe weather here right now.

    Perfect. First full day of spring, and thunderstorms! If I can’t have clear skies, give me heavy weather.

    I did see Venus yesterday though, above and to the left of the slim crescent moon, which was not even 20 hours “old.” (Not my best view of the young moon – that was around 12 hours).

  20. Kyle_Carm

    Hey Evolving Squid, yeah the Planetary Society is very much above board. Carl Sagan and Louis Friedman co-founded it back in the ’80s. The even tried to launch, well paid to launch, a solar sail test vehicle a year or two back. The Russian booster bloweded up really pretty. Think it was a 2nd stage fire while 1st stage was still attached and firing. Go to http://www.planetary.org/home/. Emily Lakdawala (whom Phil does have a crush on) has a good blog and the podcast is good also. Honestly I’m surprised you haven’t heard of it, but well you nom de plum does show you in the evil PZ Meyers camp (grumble grumble Phil should have won that best blog) :-)

  21. I saw it about 10 minutes before sundown. Does that count? No luck with Sirius yet, but I’ll figger out where in the sky it is relative to a fixed reference and try again tomorrow.

  22. Thanks Kyle, I’ll check that out. Somehow I got on their solicitation list, and it’s always looked interesting, but there are so many pseudo-organizations that just want to take your money these days, and I figured that if anyone knew of these people, it would be someone here.

    No, I am not a Myers sycophant, despite the name. His blog is often interesting, but I often find he proseletyzes a bit too much for my liking. I am called Squid because, where I went to university a million years ago, “squid” was the general slang term for nerd, particularly computer nerd. I embraced the term wholeheartedly, and in so doing probably headed off years of harassment.

    In any case, I’m now The Squid. I added “Evolving” on my first ever post to this forum because the topic at had was something evolution related.

    I didn’t hear about Pharyngula until some time much later, also due to a post on this board.

    I love his Friday Cephalopod articles though :)

  23. Besides, I have my own coinage, I bet the Pharyngula cephalopod doesn’t have that…

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v471/dcowan38/board_posts/6N-00299s1antiquecopper.jpg

  24. jayem

    Phil…it might also be worth mentioning that varable star Mira is also around that area of the sky — much more brighter than Venus right now, and a good source for determining its magnitude).

  25. Irishman

    Evolving Squid, the Planetary Society is exactly what it promises to be. Of course, like every organization that runs on donations, they hit you up for said donations frequently. But you do get the magazine and other membership features.

  26. DenverAstro

    I thought I spotted Venus in daylight once but it turned out to be one of those pesky alien spacecraft. I wish them buggers would go home :o )

  27. Buzz Parsec

    Of course I saw this blog entry after midnight on Thursday … :-(

    Plus it’s raining tonight.

    But about 3 years ago on a very clear and cold early December Sunday morning (in other words, if I wasn’t so lazy, I could look it up and find the exact date), I saw Venus and a very thin waning crescent Moon very close to each other in the pre-dawn sky. I realized it was a chance to see Venus in daylight, so about an hour later, with the Sun well above the horizon, I went out and looked. It took much longer to locate the Moon than I expected, seemed like hours because it was so COLD, but probably about 5 minutes. However, once I spotted it, Venus was instantly obvious. It was much brighter than I expected, a tiny intense spark. It should be easy to see any time during the day, if I just knew where to look!

    BTW, Squid, the Planetary Society is legit.

  28. jayem, Mira gets to be about magnitude 2 at its brightest, only 1% of the brightness of Venus. Venus is the third brightest object ion the sky (after the Sun and Moon), and nothing else comes close. Jupiter and Mars only get about half as bright at best.

  29. Umm … Phil

    Three words : comets, Supernovae, novae.

    All those can get brighter than Venus albiet unpredictably. Beingpedantic Iknow and thanks for the info though! I’ll have to try this! Whenever Venus and the moon are seen together inthewdusklort dawn skies – especially a thin crescent – I think its just spectacularly beautiful.

    On a lighter note & in pedant mode again :

    “Once you spot Venus in binoculars, keep your head and eyes in the same position and lower the binocs. Bang! Venus.”

    What the binoculars bump into the planet when you lower them!!!??

    Having read Mark Hansen’s comment above on this its now clear what you meant but it took a while for me to get that too. You may want to clarify that sentence. Something like :

    “Lower the binoculars and keep your eyes fixed on the planet and you’ll be seeing it with the unaided eye in daylight…” Or suchlike maybe?

  30. Hmmm .. I should’ve checked my emails a while ago! The Lunar & Cytherean (a better adjective than Venusian) alignment been and gone. Still thanks anyway.

  31. K. Frank Lin

    This is the second time in 10 years that I try to see the venus with regular eye-glasses only. Today (April 20,2007;7:40 pm) I first saw Venus in day time, which was about 10 degrees below the crescent moon. The moon provided a reference point for my scanning of the sky. I had a witness- Mr. Jack Cheng, who is a student from Simon Fraser University doing a Co-op job in Waterloo.

  32. DRWarrior

    I saw an article in Astonomy magazine years ago about finding Venus (and maybe Jupiter too) in the daytime. I have done it a number of times in the past. What was suggested, was to spot Venus at sunset and find the reletive distance between them, by hand and fist or whatever, then to look for it earlier each day using binioculars if need be. I found that a cloudless sky is best. Looking thru a decent telescope can yield views of stars during the daytime too. Try the brightest first.

  33. marcie

    Phil’s a busy guy!!
    marcie hands phil a cup of coffee and pats him on the back and says that’s okay people makes mistakes !!!!!

  34. Tom

    On 5-22-07 I was lying on my back reading Farewell to Arms. I was facing west. I was using the book to block the sun. I like looking into the sky, sometimes here in NY(20 miles no of Manhattan) I will see hawks, or military planes. THen suddenly I saw this tiny white object. I had recently read that Venus will be making a show of itself over the next few months so I figured it was Venus. Then I googled see venus in daytime on google and found this site.
    Trully amazing to see a planet with the naked eyes.
    But this does not explain how the ancients knew so much about space. WHo are the Nehplim.
    I will look for Venus tomorrow at 3:30 to 4ish. Another beautiful sunny day in NY, and it is all a gift from God. Stop war and abortion. Pray for peace.

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