The Moon and Venus, a gorgeous pair

The Moon and Venus, a gorgeous pair

The Moon and Venus, a gorgeous pair

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 26 2011 6:42 PM

The Moon and Venus, a gorgeous pair

Just an hour or so ago as I write this (Saturday, November 26, 2011) I was sitting at my desk at home, puttering around on the computer. I glanced out my office window and noticed the Sun had set a few minutes before. Even though it was still quite bright out, I thought I might be able to spot Venus low in the west. So I leaned back and looked out the window. Venus was easy enough to spot -- it's really quite bright -- but to my surprise and delight a very thin crescent Moon was hanging right next to it!

I did two things right away: I tweeted about it, so others could go outside and see the pair if they could, and then I grabbed my camera and went outside. I took literally 111 pictures, and put the best of them on Flickr. Check this one out!

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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[Click to embiggen.]

This was one of the first of the set I took; the sky was still quite bright. You can see the very young Moon on the right, and Venus way over on the left. I measured the distance off the picture, and they were about 3° apart, or about 6 times the width of the Moon's face. That's pretty close!

I kept snapping away as the sky darkened, and moved around a bit to get a more interesting foreground. I like the way this one came out:

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You can see some nearby trees for context, as well as one of the Boulder foothills. If you click through to the higher-resolution version on Flickr, you'll see the faint outline of the dark portion of the Moon; that's called Earthshine, because it's light from the Earth illuminating the Moon!

[Edited to add: there were a few more shots I decided to add after I posted this, including this dramatic one of the Moon behind some tree branches; you can really see the Earthshine here!]

Go ahead and take a look at the others I put on Flickr. Mind you, I took these with a small digital camera, a Canon Powershot SX110 IS. It's not terribly fancy, but it has a manual mode which helped get the exposures and apertures settings the way I wanted them. I've had it a while now and there are a couple of bad pixels I had to clone out (they stood out as a white and red spot in the dark sky; normally you'd never notice them) but that's all the processing I did.

In other words, it's not terribly hard to get great shots of the sky, even when you're relatively unprepared for a gorgeous scene. In this case, I knew enough to look outside, but hey! Now you do too. Get snapping!