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November 30, 2007

Venus in the daytime

Filed under: Naked eye observing,Observing — nick @ 10:05 pm

30 November 2007: Early morning naked-eye observations

Around 6:30 am I was outside to let the dog out. The sky was still dark, and it was crisp and clear. I looked around and saw the moon (about half-full), Mars, Saturn, and Venus (shining like a bright jewel in the eastern sky) strung out in a line, demarcating the plane of ecliptic. Orion was also astride the sky in the southwest with another dog or two nearby to keep him company, and to the north the great bear was upside-down.

Around 8:00, after the kids were off to school, I took my dog for a walk before going to work. It was bright and clear, so I decided to see if I could do a naked-eye sighting of Venus after sunrise. I had spotted Venus in the daytime a couple of times in the past, but only with a visual cue such as nearby moon to help out. I scanned the sky in the area I thought Venus should be. I had an early success! A point of light flitted into view for a brief few seconds before I lost sight of it.

Maddeningly, I then spent a few minutes trying to repeat the observation. Fortunately my dog was very patient because she found some kind interesting smell to keep her occupied. It can be very frustrating experience attempting to find a rather small point of light at infinite focus without nearby visual cues to help. Other thing interfered as well; I became acutely aware at the number of floaters and other junk that had accumulated within my eye over the last 47 years. Also, I began to experience the blue field entoptic phenomenon. This is when you can actually see the movement of blood within the capillaries of your retina; it appears as tiny points of light that follow defined tracks within your field of view.

Well, fascinating as this was from a physiological point of view, it was no help at all in finding Venus. At last, however, I caught site of the elusive planet and held it in my gaze for about half a minute. I checked the time on my cell phone: it was 8:14 am (EST), fully half hour after the local time of sunrise, according to the paper. This was the deepest into daytime that I had seen Venus with my naked eye, and also the only time observing it in the daytime without a visual guide such as the moon nearby or the with aid of binoculars to use as a finder.

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