Venus | Inferior Conjunction | 2017

Venus is closer to the Sun and orbits faster than Earth. Earth takes just over 365 days. Venus orbits in just under 225 Earth days. During the recent few months, Venus was bright and easily visible in the evening sky as it caught up to and passed Earth. In doing so, it came closer and appeared larger when viewed with a telescope or binoculars. This animation from a desktop program illustrates their motions. Mercury is not shown in order to simplify the view. The sizes are exaggerated.

The alignment of Venus between Earth and the Sun is called an inferior conjunction. It happened on 25 March 2017. Venus rarely transits the face of the Sun due to the tilt of its orbit. Earth-Venus-Sun alignment is rare to cause a transit such as the one in 2012.

The animation used above is tilted so we can view the orbits obliquely. Notice how the illuminated side of Venus as seen from Earth changes to a narrower crescent as it nears inferior conjunction. Bear in mind, too, that Venus gets closer to Earth during that time and appears larger.

Starting in late January this year, I photographed Venus when the evening sky was clear enough. My hope was to document the size of Venus as it came closer to Earth and to see the thinning crescent. As a bonus on 3 Feb, I photographed it during the daylight at about 4pm. The previous video is annotated to show the dates of six of my best photographs. Those six are in a gallery below the video.

Gallery of Six

Venus in the Morning

Venus is now visible in the morning just before sunrise and very low to the horizon. On 24 Mar I managed to barely see it through a high thin cloud layer. It was not a good picture. But the crescent was clearly visible.

Morning view at 6:45

Cropped and enhanced


My equipment consisted of a tripod mounted Canon PowerShot SX60 HS digital camera. It has a 65x zoom ratio which I used for all of the six images featured. Each was shot in RAW, enlarged to 100%, then cropped to 350×350 px.

Many others have imaged Venus through large high-quality telescopes with a variety of cameras attached. Their image quality is considerably better than mine. One such individual is noted below in a tweet. Follow the link to the tweet to see a composite of his images over 6 months of time. Note the change in size and growth of the crescent. It is a terrific display. My thanks to Roger Hutchinson for permission to use his tweet and image. Visit his website for more beautiful images.


10 thoughts on “Venus | Inferior Conjunction | 2017

  1. Great pictures and chronology of Venus’s recent phases.

    Out of curiosity, will you try to photograph Jupiter with your camera and setup? I’m sure you could capture the moons at x65. I can see Ganymede through my x8 binoculars.

    • Thank you.

      I will be doing some shots of Jupiter. The moons are definitely visible with the camera. I found that exposing for the moons makes Jupiter over exposed. Exposing for Jupiter makes the moons not visible. Here is an image of Jupiter last spring. It is a single frame RAW. No moons. I plan to get some video and stack the images to see the improvement. I hope the link works for you.

  2. Nice photos. And nice use of the animations as well. Amazing technology that allows a camera to capture such nice images!

  3. Great post Jim. I always learn something. I like your photos and the links. Incredible zoom on your camera. Take care. Bob

  4. Great post, Jim. Are those animations original? I’ve been thinking of doing some, myself. Great photos, too. I like the sight of Venus in a morning sky, I like it just fine in the evenings, just fine, don’t get me wrong, so I’m looking forward to seeing it there if I’m up early enough. Thanks again for the great work.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Scott. Yes, the animations are mine. I used my desktop program Voyager to capture them. The 3rd one I edited in YouTube to show the date annotations.

      My west view is tall trees. Seeing Venus has meant walking away from the house to the east a bit. Morning views will be easy. I can set up on the front porch. 🙂

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