Tuesday, February 21, 2017

See the crescent of Venus!

Venus, 42x zoom, February 19, 2017
Because the orbits of Venus and Mercury are inside the orbit of Earth, we can see these planets display crescent phases when they are between us and the Sun. Venus is a lot closer to Earth during these crescent phases than during other points in its orbit, so it appears much larger - to the point that the crescent of Venus can be discerned with the naked eye by keen-eyed individuals. My eyesight is nowhere near good enough for that, but the zoom feature of my camera, combined with a high shutter speed mode, has allowed me to take pictures like the one above. (For a sense of scale, with the same settings the Full Moon fills the entire vertical space of the image.)

From February through March 2017 Venus will put on quite a show in the west after sunset. Unmistakably bright, its crescent will be getting thinner while the disc of the planet itself is increasing in size - meaning the planet will maintain its brightness, even though its appearance through binoculars, telescopes, and high-zoom cameras changes dramatically. (See this page, which is continuously updated, for more information, and the full version of the table below.)

How the crescent will grow through March 2017. Source
This isn't a rare occurrence, but it's worth getting a look at when it does come along. Check it out through late March 2017!

Venus, 42x zoom, February 24, 2017
Venus, 42x zoom, March 1, 2017
Image may contain: night and sky
Venus, 42x zoom, March 8, 2017.

Image may contain: night
Venus, 42x zoom, March 12, 2017.

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