I saw the planet Venus four times on my walk to and from lunch today! Yes, in broad daylight!

Someone on Slashdot mentioned it was possible last week. I took it seriously because back in high school, I used to watch Venus fade into the brightening sky on winter mornings. Often I could still find it once I arrived at school, since I knew exactly where to look.

I tried unsuccessfully a couple of times over the past week, but today I had a ~20-minute walk mostly facing southward, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I used the Moon as a guide, trying to guess the distance based on how far apart they were last night. As I passed through a building’s shadow, I spotted a stationary white dot in the right area, a bit more than a hand span away from the crescent Moon in the direction of the sun, barely visible next to some wispy clouds. I couldn’t find any sign of a con trail, and it didn’t move, so it clearly wasn’t an airplane, but I was able to look away and back and still see it.

I caught it again from the mall itself, about 15 minutes later after I finished eating and started walking back. This time I was able to peg it down as the distance from one eye’s image of my thumb to the other eye’s image of my little finger. Same place, no sign of movement. Could be a weather balloon, but still…

I kept pausing next to trees or traffic signals to look for it again on the way back, but couldn’t spot it again until I walked into the shadow of another building. Apparently just blocking the sun’s glare wasn’t enough, I had to let my eyes adjust for a few seconds. But it was right there, in clear sky this time, and I was able to walk past a few trees and find it again within seconds.

One final test: as I reached the building where I work, I walked around to the far side to put myself in its shadow. A few seconds to let my eyes adjust, an outstretched hand, and *bam*, there it was!

First sighting: 12:52pm. Last: about 1:35pm.

In Short:

  1. Figure out where Venus is in relation to something you can see easily. (The moon is good for this!)
  2. Stand in the shadow of a building and let your eyes adjust.
  3. Start scanning the sky in the area.

Of course, it helps that Venus is about as far from the sun as it can get (from Earth’s POV) right now. I found a site with more detailed directions and a photo.

Current Mood: 🙂excited

5 thoughts on “Daystar!

  1. I managed to repeat this on Wednesday, Friday, and Monday. Clouds Thursday, indoors all afternoon on Saturday, and no luck on Sunday. This week has gotten progressively hazier every day to the point that today I could barely see the nearby mountains. Last week it was so clear we could see all the way to Long Beach from the section of Jamboree crossing the former Marine base. That asymmetrical wedge/doorstop-shaped hill that you can see off the 405 that I think is Signal Hill*? We could see it from 30 miles away. This week? Well, last night I could barely see Venus even in the dark, the haze was so bad.

    *I can’t find any pictures of Signal Hill. Pictures on Signal Hill, sure. Pictures from Signal Hill. But none of Signal Hill, so I can’t check to be sure.

  2. […] On the plus side, I did manage to spot Venus while the sky was still light, and get a picture. It’s not quite as exciting as spotting it at one in the afternoon, but by adding more blue, you get an idea of what that looked like: Share this link:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  3. […] And, well, I did. I’m just not sure what. This was 1:28 pm (33.66 N, 117.75 W), looking roughly southwest, with the sun placed behind a wall to the right. The sun is to the right and above the frame. I don’t have a good sense of distance in the sky, but this is in the right direction to be either Venus or the comet. […]

  4. I was just thinking of the Palos Verdes/Signal Hill misidentification yesterday, on a drive back from Orange County up to where I now live in the South Bay area…on a clear enough evening that yes, I could see the wedge-shaped hills of the Palos Verdes peninsula from early in the drive.

    For the record, Signal Hill is a lot shorter, and round.

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