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Touring the Skies By Jim Bonser (jbonser@usa.net)

Ps. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.


As I prepared to write this month’s article, I was reminded that Venus will be in inferior conjunction on June 3rd. From our point of view, looking at planets that orbit closer to the Sun than we do, namely Venus, which is next closer to the Sun, and Mercury, which is closest to the Sun, occasionally they will pass close to the Sun. This is called a conjunction – they are in line with us and the Sun. Usually they don’t pass directly between us and the Sun, instead, they pass a little above or a little below it. When they are between us and the Sun astronomers say the planet reaches inferior conjunction. When the Sun is between us and them astronomers say they have reached superior conjunction. This month as Venus races toward its June 3rd inferior conjunction, its orbit will carry it much closer to us and therefore it will appear much larger. Don’t worry; we are not in any danger of colliding; Venus will still be more than 50 million km away. Still, it will be close enough that around the middle of the month, if you have really, really good eyesight, you might be able to discern that it is not round but is a thin sliver of a crescent. My eyes are definitely not that good. I’ve tried without success before when this happens, and I could not see it as a crescent, but binoculars can help. 10X50’s or better yet, 16X80’s or a small telescope will definitely reveal Venus as a miniature “crescent Moon”. It is best to wait until the Sun has just set so there is no chance of accidentally looking at the Sun – especially through binoculars or a scope, but before the sky gets too dark. Venus is so bright that it is easier to see the shape when the sky is still a bit light. It is a beautiful sight; I hope you get an opportunity to catch it. Venus will stand super high in the west after sunset at the beginning of the month setting almost 3-1/2 hours after the sun. But if you go out night after night this month, you may be shocked at how much closer to the horizon it gets eacday until by the end of the month Venus is setting just 1 hour or so after the Sun! Little Mercury will also be visible in the west after sunset this month. Mercury is in superior conjunction (remember behind the Sun) as May begins, but by the 11th is becomes visible near the horizon shortly after sunset. It will rise higher and higher as Venus descends lower and lower each night after that until they pass each other on May 21. On that night they will be only about 1 degree apart. I hope that evening is clear, I’d love to see that and maybe even catch a picture. I hope you can too! Saturn and Jupiter have been early morning targets for the last few months but finally towards the end of the month they begin to rise before midnight. I won’t be staying up specifically to view them this month, but I’m looking forward to some great views of both of them with a telescope later this summer and into the fall. I wrote this article on April 27th. Before I got started, I stepped outside for a look around the sky. I especially wanted to see Venus near the pretty crescent Moon. I was not disappointed. They looked just beautiful together. It had gotten up to about 81 degrees F earlier and now that the Sun had set, it had cooled down a bit but I was still comfortable with a short sleeve shirt on. As I stood outside just drinking in Venus and the Moon and a sprinkling of bright stars it occurred to me that there were no mosquitoes buzzing about my ears (mosquitoes love me). It won’t be long, I thought, so I stood there for just a couple extra minutes to enjoy the night without having to swat at those bloodthirsty insects. For a few minutes, I could enjoy the beauty of the night sky and forget about the virus and the snow and the mosquitoes. It was wonderful! Clear Skies!

Touring the Skies By Jim Bonser (jbonser@usa.net)

A picture I took of Venus by holding a camera up to the eyepiece of an 8" reflector telescope. the blue background is because the Sun was still up but behind some trees when I snapped this picture. I like the image because it shows how small Venus is; the Moon would have filled the field of view of that eyepiece and then some. Jim Bonser

Ps. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.


As I prepared to write this month’s article, I was reminded that Venus will be in inferior conjunction on June 3rd. From our point of view, looking at planets that orbit closer to the Sun than we do, namely Venus, which is next closer to the Sun, and Mercury, which is closest to the Sun, occasionally they will pass close to the Sun. This is called a conjunction – they are in line with us and the Sun. Usually they don’t pass directly between us and the Sun, instead, they pass a little above or a little below it. When they are between us and the Sun astronomers say the planet reaches inferior conjunction. When the Sun is between us and them astronomers say they have reached superior conjunction. This month as Venus races toward its June 3rd inferior conjunction, its orbit will carry it much closer to us and therefore it will appear much larger. Don’t worry; we are not in any danger of colliding; Venus will still be more than 50 million km away. Still, it will be close enough that around the middle of the month, if you have really, really good eyesight, you might be able to discern that it is not round but is a thin sliver of a crescent. My eyes are definitely not that good. I’ve tried without success before when this happens, and I could not see it as a crescent, but binoculars can help. 10X50’s or better yet, 16X80’s or a small telescope will definitely reveal Venus as a miniature “crescent Moon”. It is best to wait until the Sun has just set so there is no chance of accidentally looking at the Sun – especially through binoculars or a scope, but before the sky gets too dark. Venus is so bright that it is easier to see the shape when the sky is still a bit light. It is a beautiful sight; I hope you get an opportunity to catch it. Venus will stand super high in the west after sunset at the beginning of the month setting almost 3-1/2 hours after the sun. But if you go out night after night this month, you may be shocked at how much closer to the horizon it gets each day until by the end of the month Venus is setting just ? hour or so after the Sun! Little Mercury will also be visible in the west after sunset this month. Mercury is in superior conjunction (remember behind the Sun) as May begins, but by the 11th is becomes visible near the horizon shortly after sunset. It will rise higher and higher as Venus descends lower and lower each night after that until they pass each other on May 21. On that night they will be only about 1 degree apart. I hope that evening is clear, I’d love to see that and maybe even catch a picture. I hope you can too! Saturn and Jupiter have been early morning targets for the last few months but finally towards the end of the month they begin to rise before midnight. I won’t be staying up specifically to view them this month, but I’m looking forward to some great views of both of them with a telescope later this summer and into the fall. I wrote this article on April 27th. Before I got started, I stepped outside for a look around the sky. I especially wanted to see Venus near the pretty crescent Moon. I was not disappointed. They looked just beautiful together. It had gotten up to about 81 degrees F earlier and now that the Sun had set, it had cooled down a bit but I was still comfortable with a short sleeve shirt on. As I stood outside just drinking in Venus and the Moon and a sprinkling of bright stars it occurred to me that there were no mosquitoes buzzing about my ears (mosquitoes love me). It won’t be long, I thought, so I stood there for just a couple extra minutes to enjoy the night without having to swat at those bloodthirsty insects. For a few minutes, I could enjoy the beauty of the night sky and forget about the virus and the snow and the mosquitoes. It was wonderful! Clear Skies!