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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Pretty picture: Two crescents: New moon, old Venus

Posted By Emily Lakdawalla

02-01-2014 15:21 CST

Topics: pretty pictures, amateur astrophotos, Venus, the Moon

In the western sky, a brand-new Moon has risen past a switfly plunging Venus crescent, making for some really beautiful sunset photos of the two thin crescents together. is one great place to go for amateur shots of sky events like these.

Two crescents: New moon, old Venus

Pal Varadi Nagy

Two crescents: New moon, old Venus
A day-old Moon and a waning Venus crescent appeared very close to each other in the sunset sky on January 2, 2014 (left). Cutting out and comparing the two crescents to each other shows their similar illumination but dissimilar sizes (right). Venus, roughly four times the diameter of the Moon, was near inferior conjunction so about 50 million kilometers away (more than 100 times farther away than the Moon).

Venus has been a brilliant beacon in the western sky for a while now; it's approaching Earth on the inside track of its race around the Sun, so even though its crescent is waning, its bright clouds still reflect sunshine brilliantly for a couple more days. But it'll be at inferior conjunction (essentially, between us and the Sun) on January 11, so by the end of the month will be a brilliant morning star.

When I first saw this particular image, on Twitter, only the right-hand panel was shared, showing the two crescents incredibly close to each other:

Moon and Venus crescents

Pál Váradi Nagy

Moon and Venus crescents
This is a composite photo; the crescents were not actually this close to each other in the sky at the time they were photographed.

I thought the image was very striking and immediately contacted the photographer for permission to use it here. But as I was researching the conjunction, I noticed that the other photos taken from eastern Europe and shared on today showed the two crescents much farther apart, and found my way to Nagy's composite photo that showed his original picture (the left panel above) along with the right panel, which, as it turns out, was not a single photo but rather a mosaic made to show the lovely similarity between the shapes of the crescents. It's easy to see upon close examination that it's a mosaic (the quality of the sky is different around the inset Venus than it is around the main image of the Moon), but I didn't realize it was one when I first looked at it. It's a lesson to me of the value in going back to the source for a photo before I share it!

See other posts from January 2014


Read more blog entries about: pretty pictures, amateur astrophotos, Venus, the Moon


Edgar J. Kaiser: 01/02/2014 05:18 CST

Emily, it was on July 12, 1996 that it was possible to take such a picture without the need of Photoshop. And even better: Venus was occulted by the moon. I remember it that well because I had a job interview and therefore missed this opportunity (one has to put preferences). Good thing was I got the job. Here is a short video clip of this and a couple of other nice events: When will a probe from earth land again on Venus? Landing is so easy there, staying is abit more difficult. Cheers, Edgar

Jonathan Ursin: 01/02/2014 09:48 CST

On Feb 26th the Moon will occult Venus across India and Africa. Maybe those of us in other parts of the world can see or photograph the real deal then.

Shreerang Kaulgi: 01/03/2014 11:56 CST

During an evening walk I attempted to trace the progress of Venus in the western sky. I missed it after a gap of two days in the evening walk. The picture shown here showed that Venus has not yet set in the western sky. The photograph (the original) is really striking. It must have required some advanced equipment and tracking. I shall look forward to the occultation on 26 Feb 2014.

Shreerang Kaulgi: 01/04/2014 12:01 CST

Is it possible for a person who is not a member but who has registered (Like me) with this society to post a picture on this website?

Jonathan Ursin: 01/04/2014 12:09 CST

Sheerang, I'd love to see your photography of Venus, post your work on flickr then leave the link in the comments here.

Emily Lakdawalla: 01/10/2014 12:40 CST

Shreerang, you can sumbit a photo here:

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