Venus on March 5, 2001

This image was taken a little more than three weeks before Venus reached inferior conjunction with the Sun. Venus orbits the Sun on an orbit that lies inside our orbit. As a result, Venus shows phases, i.e., changes in its apparent shape, much like the moon. At the time this image was taken, Venus was racing along its inside track to overtake us and pass us relative to the Sun. Venus had become a thin cresent, and the image of the planet swelled to a size larger than Jupiter as it moved close to Earth. Making its last appearance as an evening "star," Venus was dropping lower and lower each evening after sunset. After reaching inferior conjunction, the planet then appears in the morning sky as it passes us in its orbit.

At rare intervals, we get to see Venus cross in front of the Sun at inferior conjunction. Transits of Venus only occur twice every 121 years, and the two transits are themselves 8 years apart. Transits of Venus always occur in either December or June. A transit of Venus occurred on June 8, 2004, and will be followed by another transit on June 6, 2012. If you miss those transits, you will have to wait until 2117 for another one. Mercury will also sometimes transit across the Sun, but Mercury transits are not as rare as a Venus transit.

This is a composite CCD image taken with a Takahashi FCT-150 refractor using an Extender-Q and eyepiece projection (12mm occular). The CCD was an SBIG ST-8E. The images were taken from my backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona.

RA: 00h 54m 22.5s Dec: +1259' 18"
March 5, 2001
Image by Sid Leach
Scottsdale, Arizona

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