Venus Falls Out of the Evening Sky

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The bright planet Venus was high in the evening sky for the first half of 1999, but in July and early August it seemed to "fall" out of the sky, appearing noticeably lower each week as it swung in its orbit between the sun and the earth.

This long-exposure photo, taken in May 1999 from the roof of my house, shows Venus and a 2-day-old crescent moon also seeming to "fall" out of the western sky as they set. After an initial short exposure captured the moon and Venus, the lens was covered for a few minutes, then left uncovered until the moon had set. Since both objects were north of the celestial equator, their paths curved as they set -- arcing around the north celestial pole. Also notice how the moon was dimmed and reddened by the atmosphere as it approached the horizon.

After Venus "passed" the sun in mid-August 1999, it was again visible in the twilight sky -- but in the morning!

This photograph appeared on NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site on September 3, 1999.

Date: May 17, 1999
Time: 8:07pm, plus 8:15 to 10:00pm MST
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Camera: Olympus OM-1 on fixed tripod
Film: Fuji Provia 100 slide
Lens: 50mm
Aperture and exposure time: f/4 for 3 seconds, covered lens for 8 minutes, then f/16 with polarizing filter for 105 minutes
Scanned with Nikon Coolscan LS-10E


Revised: December 30, 2000
Copyright © 2000 Joe Orman
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