April 22, 2014
Astronomy isn’t just for the nighttime. There’s one star you can see during the day…the sun. Just a month ago (March 20th) the sun came up exactly due east and set due west. And it will do that again in December. We usually think of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west but if you want to be particular, it only happens during the time of year when we have equal daylight and equal night. Yep. The rest of the year the sun rises a little more to the east or a little more to the west and sets that way as well.
What else happens during the day for astronomy? You can see Venus. It’s easier with binoculars, much easier. Try to find a pinpoint of light in the sky. Pretty darn hard because the sky is so bright. But Venus is always close to the sun. When the sun goes down, Venus goes down with it but you might still see Venus in the early evening before it disappears but right now Venus goes down before the sun. To find Venus in the daytime you probably want to get an idea where to look. Here’s a website where you can check Venus’s position which is to the right of the sun right now (http://neave.com/planetarium/). Grab a pair of binoculars and take 10 minutes or so to find it. Don’t look at the sun. And if Venus is ever very very near the sun, this wouldn’t be a good idea. But if you find Venus, great job! Then put your binoculars down and see if you can find it with just your bare eyes.
What else is out there? If you want to try and find Jupiter or even other objects and you have some patience and a good set of binoculars or a telescope, you can see those and even the space station. See below for a few pics of those.
What I find most fascinating during the daytime is what the sun spots look like. You need a solar filter over your binoculars or telescope. You can buy that on ebay or amazon or a few other places pretty cheaply. You could also confirm that the sun rotates by watching the sunspots move. Yep, the sun rotates just like everything else. As an aside, everything is moving, everything. Even if you feel like you’re standing still…you are on the earth which is moving, you’re just not moving relative to the earth…like being on a plane. You’re moving but not relative to the plane.
Oh, can’t forget seeing the moon during the daytime. A thought about the moon, when it’s a full moon, it’s opposite the sun so the full moon is in the east when the sun sets or it’s in the west when the sun rises. When it’s a new moon or old moon, it’s near the sun in a crescent shape. And a new moon crescent is lit on the west side and an old moon looks like a C, lit on the east side.
Get your binoculars out and see if you can find Venus.
Picture from blog.discovermagazine.com