The Moon and Venus, a gorgeous pair

By Phil Plait | November 26, 2011 6:42 pm

Just an hour or so ago as I write this (Saturday, November 26, 2011) I was sitting at my desk at home, puttering around on the computer. I glanced out my office window and noticed the Sun had set a few minutes before. Even though it was still quite bright out, I thought I might be able to spot Venus low in the west. So I leaned back and looked out the window. Venus was easy enough to spot — it’s really quite bright — but to my surprise and delight a very thin crescent Moon was hanging right next to it!

I did two things right away: I tweeted about it, so others could go outside and see the pair if they could, and then I grabbed my camera and went outside. I took literally 111 pictures, and put the best of them on Flickr. Check this one out!

[Click to embiggen.]

This was one of the first of the set I took; the sky was still quite bright. You can see the very young Moon on the right, and Venus way over on the left. I measured the distance off the picture, and they were about 3° apart, or about 6 times the width of the Moon’s face. That’s pretty close!

I kept snapping away as the sky darkened, and moved around a bit to get a more interesting foreground. I like the way this one came out:

You can see some nearby trees for context, as well as one of the Boulder foothills. If you click through to the higher-resolution version on Flickr, you’ll see the faint outline of the dark portion of the Moon; that’s called Earthshine, because it’s light from the Earth illuminating the Moon!

[Edited to add: there were a few more shots I decided to add after I posted this, including this dramatic one of the Moon behind some tree branches; you can really see the Earthshine here!]

Go ahead and take a look at the others I put on Flickr. Mind you, I took these with a small digital camera, a Canon Powershot SX110 IS. It’s not terribly fancy, but it has a manual mode which helped get the exposures and apertures settings the way I wanted them. I’ve had it a while now and there are a couple of bad pixels I had to clone out (they stood out as a white and red spot in the dark sky; normally you’d never notice them) but that’s all the processing I did.

In other words, it’s not terribly hard to get great shots of the sky, even when you’re relatively unprepared for a gorgeous scene. In this case, I knew enough to look outside, but hey! Now you do too. Get snapping!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Boulder, Moon, Venus

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