Venus and the Moon, looking pretty

By Phil Plait | December 27, 2011 6:24 pm

The Moon and Venus make a pretty pair, don’t they?

I took this shot myself an hour ago as I write this, about 17:00 local time here in Boulder. I used my cell phone camera, then in Photoshop cropped it to 610 pixels wide (the biggest my blog width will allow) and blurred it a tiny bit to reduce the background noise. You can just barely see the "dark" part of the Moon, lit by reflected Earth light.

The pair were closer together last night, and the Moon’s motion around the Earth are separating them more as you read this. But they’ll be back together again on January 26th (they’ll get about 6° apart, 12 times the width of the Moon), and even closer on February 25th, when they’ll be about 3° apart! That’s a really nice photo op, so be prepared for it. If I can get such a nice shot with just my crappy phone, imagine what real photographers with nice equipment can get. I hope to see lots of gorgeous pictures of the pair then.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Moon, Venus

Comments (14)

  1. Chris

    I saw it when I was going to my car after work tonight just after the sun had set. I said, “Hey, that looks like a planet,” so I took out my phone, opened the star chart app, pointed the phone at it, and saw that it was Venus. “Hey, cool!”

    Then I noticed another bright dot high above me, so I pointed my phone at that. “It’s Jupiter!”

    I love technology.

  2. Ha! I took the same shot, but from Spain.

  3. I got some shots here in Tucson last night. You can see them at

    I’ll be out there with my camera in future months as long as the weather holds!

  4. JHGRedekop

    Thanks to your tweet yesterday, I managed to get this shot from my front porch:

    I’ll have to try again on the 25th!

  5. Greg In Austin

    That couldn’t have been tonight. On my way home from work, I saw the same thing, and the moon was much further to the right. Also, the trees looked different. 😉

    Been away from your blog for a while, Phil. Nothing personal. Still read it every day, just don’t have as much time to post here as I used to. Had things going on. All is well. Keep up the good work! And let us know next time you’re in Austin. I’ll buy you another drink!

    – Greg


  6. Haha, I was out yesterday and captured the same event, only from Sweden where I live. Check it out:

  7. Mapnut

    Hey Phil, what’s with the long unbroken string of astronomy posts and sky pics? I keep coming here looking for a good rant against creationism, antivaxxers, or the idiocies of presidential candidates, and going away disappointed. 😉

  8. I also live in Boulder and randomly noticed this gorgeous view the other night. I took some pictures with my camera phone (but played around with exposure and such) and posted a photobucket album:

    As soon as I looked at the images on the computer, I thought to myself: “Phil Plait is totally going to post on this tomorrow.” Looks like I was right!

  9. Grand Lunar

    Same the same thing, as well as the closer approach the day before, from here in Arizona.

    And they’re going to be even closer next month and the month after that?

    I can imagine someone getting a shot of the sky that shows the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter all in a row in the sky…..

  10. here’s how it looked in san diego the night after christmas (my flickr acct)

  11. Ken

    Had to get up at 4:00 a.m. this morning, so I got to see Mars (making kind of an interesting pattern with the brighter stars of Leo) and Saturn (near Spica).

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hey, not bad for a cell phone photo! Not bad at all. :-)

    Amazing what modern technology can do when you think about it.

    The Moon and Venus make a pretty pair, don’t they?

    Yes but I wouldn’t want them to physically meet! 😉

    It may be quite a spectacular collision but I think we could do without the likely swarm of red-hot asteroids from the debris spreading out our way and wrecking havoc! 😮

    OTOH, could such a collision knock the dense atmosphere off Venus and split the Cytherean world into two separate fragments – a binary planet each maybe about half to two-thirds of an Earth-mass and possibly habitable?

    Perhaps such a collision – happening quickly enough could blast enough mass away from Venus – along with its atmosphere and cause it to spin quicker turning it into a Haumea-like terrestrial planet with small moons a much smaller mass letting some of that stifling air out and thus less pressure cooker conditions and perhaps turning it into something almost habitable? (Hmm.. then again, the chances of retaining volatiles eg. water in such a scenario are kinda remote.)

    Or instead would the Moon and Venus fuse – maybe at slower speeds into one double earth-mass planet which could spin faster and have different qualities maybe becoming better or maybe much worse than now – once the new lava oceans cooled solid? (Which may take some time.) Such a world would be worse out at venus’es orbital distance -all that extra mass and the same heat can’t lead to much that’s good – but perhaps if this fused LunaVenus could moved out to Mars or the asteroid belt’s distance somehow that greater mass and a thick atmosphere – assuming outgassing – might work out nicely. Except for one thing – how would we shift it by Earth without altering our orbit in the process! 😮

    I wonder – has anyone ever modelled this sort of Venus-Luna planetary encounter of the impactful kind? 8)

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ MTU :

    ..would the Moon and Venus fuse – maybe at slower speeds into one double earth-mass

    Arrghh! What was I thinking!? 😮

    The Moon is NOT an Earth mass natch. Sorry, make that one and a bit Earth-mass instead. Mea culpa.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    Correction for the record :

    Sorry, make that one and a bit Earth-mass instead.

    Actually no, not that high in mass even.

    – The mass of our Moon = 0.012 of the Earth’s.
    (Source : Page 34, ‘Stars & planets’ Patrick Moore, Chancellor press, 1992.)

    – The mass of Venus = 0.815 of Earth’s. (Page 30, ibid.)

    So combining them results by my calculator anyhow in 0.827 or NOT even a single Earth mass! (one Earth mass here = 1.) Which of course isn’t even allowing for the likely factor that much of the material from a collision would be ejected from both worlds!

    FWIW. Mars = 0.107 Earth masses (page 40, ibid) & Mercury = 0.055 (page 28, ibid) so combining those two rock dwarfs would again only get us to 0.162 where one earth mass = 1.

    Combining Mars with Venus = 0.922 &
    Combining Mercury with Venus = 0.87

    Still leaving us without even one Earth mass. I’m very surprised by these figures and unsure if they’re actually correct but its what the calculator says &, yes, I’ve rechecked. Maybe my maths or methodology here is wrong, maybe I’m mistaken – & if I am please let me know – but, that’s what I’ve calculated here.


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