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  1. #1
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    Default Planetary visualization at night



    Alright so we all know that Venus and Mercury are closer to the sun than we are and at night we face away from the sun, so here is my question: how is it possible to see Venus and Mercury at night?

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    If you're in Texas, it isn't.

    The first level, and easiest answer is to download Stellerium, or another open-source planetarium software application. There are also commercial versions, like The Sky, or Starry Nights. These will tell you what is visible, or should be given accurate location, date, and time information.

    The rest is a bit harder, and involves study of planispheres, star charts, etc.
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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    Hello JSpidey. The obvious answer is that you can't. If they revolve around the sun at orbits smaller then ours, then they will set with the sun shortly after it sets. Now, I relate to you a great story of spriing 2010. The majority of amateur astronomers have never seen Mercury. But, how ironic was it, that I left church after the Good Friday somber church service, and stopped by a local store to buy milk on the way home that I saw this great event. I live in Florida, but when we left church, I was looking at blue skies, palm trees, and I could make out Mercury by holding my arm out and looking 45 degrees south and east. It was a bright shimmering fireball, and later settled in to a very golden point in the sky. Unfortunately my yard would not let me photograph this grear event. This is as close as I have gotten to Mercury, the "Messenger".
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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    Since they're so close to the sun, they're only visible either shortly before sunrise, or shortly after sunset. You're never going to see either planet high up in the sky in the middle of the night.

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    While we're facing away from the sun at night, we're not facing 180 degrees away from it for most of the night. Try to visualize it like this:

    Take a baseball, a tennis ball and a golf ball. Place the tennis ball (t) at the center, the golf ball (g) about 3" to the right of the tennis ball, and the baseball (b) 90 degrees away from the position of the golf ball about 1' away. Kinda like this (note, even the placement is not to scale, neither are the objects):

    O(t) o(g)





    O(b)

    Now, if you were to lay down so that you were facing the baseball with it in a straight line to the tennis ball, you could move slightly so that at the same time you cannot see the tennis ball, but you can see the golf ball. For the sake of simplicity, in your mind, keep the baseball in the same spot. If you were to move the golf ball around the tennis ball, you could still see it until it was eclipsed by the tennis ball. You would then be able to see it again after it emerged from the other side of the tennis ball.

    This is how we observe the innermost planets. Venus is a lot easier, because it's orbit is much wider than Mercury. This is also why it's called the "morning star" and "evening star" because you'll only be able to see it during those periods of the day. Mercury and Venus also go through phases, just like the moon, because we see it in different parts of it's orbit. If you were to replace the tennis ball with a light, and turn off the room lights, you would see exactly why this happens.

    Hopefully this illustration helps explain things . As stated above, aside from keeping your own Venusian and Mercurian calendars, Stellarium is the easiest way to know when either will rise and set.

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    So why does everything I read and everything I watched on the history channel about the planets say you can?

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    Well I figured you'd be able to see them at some piont during the day, but my question was about night, but your input is appreciated none the less, thank you.

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    lol, the whole point of the visualization there was to show you that you could see them at night. As long as the tennis ball (the sun) is blocked from view, it's "night". Thus as long as you can see the golf ball, and not the tennis ball, then the planet is in view at night.

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    You don't have to be facing away from the sun at night. Astronomically, night is when the sun is more than 18 degrees below the horizon. So you could be looking within 18 degres of where the sun is and it would be dark in that direction. Any object more than 18 degrees away from the sun is visible at night.

    Venus can be as far as 45 degrees away from the sun, so it is easily visible at night, as well as in twilight. Even Mercury gets to be 25 degrees or more from the sun at times, so it can be seen at night on occasion.

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    Default Re: Planetary visualization at night

    A) you can't ever see Mercury or Venus at 12:00 midnight because the horizon of our planet opaques where thos planets would be.
    B) Venus at maximum elongation is only 23-odd degrees away from the sun (mercury is less), so You get just over 1 hour after sunset/before sunrise to observe Venus
    C) both of these planets have the same phases as our moon, Venus has a nice big cressentat ME more or less like our new moon at 3 days. The phases are reversed, while near the sun the planets are full and small, and near ME they are large and cresented.

 

 

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