Venus passes Sun, now entering morning sky

This snap-shot of Venus was taken using a telescope in full daylight on June 7th, 2020, just a few days after Venus appeared to pass just below the Sun*. The planet was just a whisper-thin crescent on this date, with just 0.3% of its illuminated hemisphere visible. It’s during these “inferior conjunctions” that Venus looks biggest to us, because this is when Earth is passing closest to Venus. But Venus still appears at least 30 times smaller than the Full Moon.

One clear difference between seeing a thin crescent Venus through a telescope and seeing a thin (“young”) crescent Moon by eye is that Venus remains very bright, whereas the crescent Moon is much fainter compared to when it is a Full Moon. That’s because we never get to see the surface of Venus, only its very reflective white clouds. In fact, at the time of conjunction, we can catch a glimpse of Venus’ cloudy atmosphere faintly glowing all the way around the planet’s silhouet, making its crescent extend beyond just a half circle like for the Moon. The picture here shows a tiny bit of that extension.

 

If you want to see Venus for yourself, you will now need to get up just before Sunrise, as Venus has become the Morning Star.

Wishing everyone Clear Skies!

— Dr. Ian Shelton

* Venus was still travelling along its almost circular orbit 50 million km closer than Earth orbits the Sun; but as seen from Earth, Venus was almost perfectly lined up with the Sun 100 million km beyond Venus.