Have you ever seen the moon in a daytime sky? You can see the brightest planet, Venus, in daylight, too, if you know exactly where to look. October 7 and 8, 2013 present two chances for seeing Venus in daylight, because the moon appears near this planet. Your best bet is to look not long before the sun goes down, when the moon will be in the western sky.
Venus is bright. Not counting some short-lived meteors and comets, it’s the brightest natural object in the sky other than the sun and the moon. Venus is often so bright that it is easily viewed by the unaided human eye during daylight hours. It’s not always easy, though. In this post, I’ll tell you how to improve your chances of seeing Venus during the day, plus give you some more dates for moon-Venus conjunctions that’ll boost your chances of seeing Venus in daylight.
If you were to see Venus in the daytime sky, you’d find it as very small and inconspicuous object. It’s much less conspicuous than the daytime moon. As such Venus is often overlooked, much like Waldo in the Where’s Waldo comics. The easiest way to find Venus in daylight is to have something more easily found nearby from which you can navigate to the otherwise inconspicuous daytime planet. It’s like having a landmark in the sky.
Generally, the best landmark in your quest to see Venus in the daytime is the moon. Over the coming months, the crescent moon will pass near Venus in the daytime sky on a number of dates:
October 7 & 8
The specifics of how Venus and the moon will look on these dates depend on your specific geographical location.
No matter where you are on Earth, there are some general rules to follow:
1) Get some good (free) software so you can set up the exact orientation of the moon and Venus in your sky on the specific date. There are lots of options here. Many people like Stellarium. Or you can try Google’s Planetarium software. The great value of using software is that it allows you to see the exact orientation and distance between the moon and Venus in your sky.
2) To find Venus in daylight, start with binoculars. Very thin crescent moons, such as are to be found with the August 9 date, are themselves hard to find, so binoculars can be a great help in scanning for, and locating, these very faint objects against the background of blue sky.
3) Look about a half hour before sunset. Although we don’t necessarily notice it, the sky actually begins to darken when the sun nears the horizon, even before it actually sets. This can make it easier to find the moon and Venus. Need a good sunrise/sunset calculator? Try this one.
4) If you don’t find Venus and the moon on any one of the opportunities listed above, try again. The dates listed merely represent the best and most convenient opportunities, not your only chances. Using good software, properly configured to your location on the globe, can greatly increase your chances.
For more things to see in the daytime sky, see my previous article: 10 surprising space objects to see in the daytime sky.
And, remember, if you miss Venus in daytime, you can still catch it at night! Venus is in the west after sunset now. It’s the brightest object in that part of the sky.
Bottom line: This post describes the best opportunities for seeing Venus in a blue daytime sky in 2013. October 7 and 8 are the next good opportunities. Good luck!
Larry Sessions has written many favorite posts in EarthSky's Tonight area. He's a former planetarium director in Little Rock, Fort Worth and Denver and an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He's a longtime member of NASA's Solar System Ambassadors program. His articles have appeared in numerous publications including Space.com, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy and Rolling Stone. His small book on world star lore, Constellations, was published by Running Press.