Watch Mercury and Venus set

What are the odds? Peter Lowenstein caught Venus and Mercury on the evening of their conjunction – July 16, 2016 – setting through a thin break in the clouds.

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View larger. | Venus and Mercury setting behind the sun on July 16, 2016, via Peter Lowenstein in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

Today (July 16, 2016), something truly remarkable happened.

Following reports that Mercury and Venus were due to set close together on July 16, it was hoped to have a good view of this from Mutare. Unfortunately a blanket of cloud moved in from Mozambique and by mid-afternoon there was almost complete cover.

However, just after sunset some clearing of the sky to the west allowed bright sunset reflections to develop under the local cloudbase followed by the opening of a thin strip of open sky on the horizon. I therefore decided to focus my camera on this on the off-chance that a glimpse of either Mercury or Venus could be obtained.

To my amazement and against all odds, a letterbox view of both Mercury and Venus setting within a minute and short distance of each other was obtained.

This is presented in the accompanying animated GIF which was compiled from a time-lapse sequence of 26 photographs taken a few seconds apart between 17.52 and 17.54 LT. A tripod mounted Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 camera in sunset mode with up to x 60 zoom magnification was used. The only post-processing required was to register the images to reduce jitter caused by slight camera movement between frames.

The odds of capturing two planets setting almost simultaneously and so close together through such a narrow “window of opportunity” must be millions to one against!

Peter Lowenstein