Venus in the Daytime

With the Moon only a few degrees from Venus this afternoon, it should be relatively easy to spot the brilliant planet long before sunset.

Venus 28May2012
Venus photographed on 28May2012, about 13° from the Sun in the mid-afternoon sky
Spotting planets in the daytime is not that difficult, both Jupiter and Venus are bright enough to seen in full daylight. Venus is currently near maximum brilliance at about -4.6 magnitude, easily bright enough to see in a clear sky. There are a few helpful hints to make this easier.

Today the Moon will aid finding Venus in the sky as it is about 5° north of the Moon. Having the Moon nearby will not only aid in locating the Planet, it will also provide your eyes something to focus on.

Of course these bright objects will be even more dramatic after sunset when Mars will also be visible nearby.

Seeing Planets in the Daytime Sky

We expect to wait until darkness falls to observe the stars and planets. While the Sun and Moon are normally seen in the daytime sky, there are other objects that may be observed.

Crescent Venus
Venus approaching inferior conjunction, 24Dec2013

Both Jupiter and Venus are bright enough to see fairly easily in full daylight if conditions are right. Saturn can be observed with a telescope if you can locate it. Very occasionally, we are treated to a daytime visible comet.

Jupiter and Venus are the easiest, you simply need to know where and how to look, but once glimpsed they are fairly easily seen. It is the knowing how that makes it possible. Try these simple hints…

  • Try when the planets are far from the glare of the Sun, in the first hours after dawn or last hours of the day are best.
  • Clean air is necessary. If the air is hazy, dusty or smoggy it will hide the planets from view, particularly when near the Sun. There will just be too much solar glare to pick out the planet. For the same reason try when the planet is high in the sky and you are looking through much less air.
  • The human eye will relax and defocus if there is nothing to focus on. This happens when looking at a plain expanse of blue sky. You could be looking right at the planet and not see it. A few puffy clouds around, or better yet, the Moon, will give the eye something to focus on, allowing the planet to be easily seen.
  • Put the Sun out of sight to reduce glare. Simply position yourself in the shadow of a tree or building to get a better view.
  • Pick a day when the Moon is near the object you are looking for, it will provide a simple signpost to the correct location.

It is this last hint that can be particularly useful. Looking ahead with the aid of a planetarium program you can find a day when the Moon is near the planet. Using the program to estimate the position with respect to the Moon you can look in just the right place. If you get it right the planet will appear as a bright star-like object. Once you see it you will wonder how you ever missed it in the first place.

Have a try.