October 19, 2017

Astro-Event of the Week:03.23.09:Can you spot Venus at Inferior Conjunction?

Warning: Do not attempt this weeks’ astro-feat unless the Sun is properly blocked, preferably just below the horizon! Sweeping the area near the Sun with optical equipment introduces the very real possibility of momentarily pointing at the Sun, which can cause optical damage!

This week’s observing challenge is a unique attempt, and will put you in league with a handful of skilled observers that even realize this is possible. It is not generally appreciated that Venus’s orbit is tilted 3.4 degrees in relation to our own, as represented by the ecliptic.

As bright as Venus is, this means that on occasion, Venus can be sighted during inferior conjunction when it passes between the Earth and the Sun! Such an event occurs Friday, March 27th, 2009. With the passing of the Solstice last week, geometry favors a sunrise sighting. In the southern hemisphere, the reverse will be true. Venus will be an extremely slender crescent, (59 arc seconds in diameter, and 1% illumination) and about 5-10 degrees above the horizon slightly before local sunrise. The farther north you happen to find yourself, the better your chances of viewing success. I first completed this challenge from North Pole, Alaska, during the Inferior Conjunction of January 16, 1998 about 7 hours and 45 minutes past conjunction. Sweeping the dawn horizon with binocs will help with the initial sighting; once you know its exact position, you’ll be surprised how easy Venus is to spot with the naked eye. This year, I find myself in sunnier climes (Hudson, Florida) and Venus will be a tougher target, about six scant degrees above the horizon…good luck!

Still can’t see it? Or just plain clouded out, or want to watch indoors were its warm? Venus will be transiting through the Solar Heliospheric Observatories’ (SOHO) LASCO 3 camera around the same date… check them out on the blogroll to the right!

The astro-word of the week is Inferior Conjunction. This has nothing to do with a celestial bodies’ self-esteem; Inferior Conjunction is simply when a planet passes between the Earth and the Sun. Only two can do it; Mercury and Venus. Very rarely, we get a transit, as Venus will do in 2012. This is the last in an eight year spaced pair; by all means try to find yourselves under sunny skies, as the next transit of Venus will not occur until 2117 A.D.!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] it reaches maximum brilliancy and heads towards inferior conjunction on January 11th, 2014, and a rare chance to see it on said date… more to [...]

  2. [...] reaches inferior conjunction between the Sun and the Earth, shining at -4thmagnitude. It may be just possible to spot it five degrees north of the solar limb from high northern [...]

  3. [...] reaches inferior conjunction between the Sun and the Earth, shining at -4th magnitude. It may be just possible to spot it five degrees north of the solar limb from high northern [...]

  4. [...] on the day of solar conjunction. We performed a similar feat of visual athletics on the morning of January 16th, 1998 observing from North Pole, [...]

  5. [...] diameters!) north of the Sun. We once managed to see Venus with the unaided eye on the very day of inferior conjunction back in 1998 from the high northern latitudes of the Chena Flood Channel just outside of Fairbanks, [...]

  6. [...] diameters!) north of the Sun. We once managed to see Venus with the unaided eye on the very day of inferior conjunction back in 1998 from the high northern latitudes of the Chena Flood Channel just outside of Fairbanks, [...]

  7. [...] diameters!) north of the Sun. We once managed to see Venus with the unaided eye on the very day of inferior conjunction back in 1998 from the high northern latitudes of the Chena Flood Channel just outside of Fairbanks, [...]

  8. [...] diameters!) north of the Sun. We once managed to see Venus with the unaided eye on the very day of inferior conjunction back in 1998 from the high northern latitudes of the Chena Flood Channel just outside of Fairbanks, [...]

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