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A Daytime Moon?

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A Daytime Moon?

Ever wonder why you can sometimes see the Moon when it’s still daylight out?

Actually, you can see any celestial object in the daytime sky, provided the object is bright enough and large enough. The Moon fills both requirements. Another example is the planet Venus, which is often readily visible during the daytime, especially when it is near its greatest brilliancy. Because Venus is no more than a speck in the sky, though, you have to know exactly where to look against the “sea of blue sky” in order to find it.

Supernovae, massive stars that blow themselves to bits at the end of their life cycles, have also been visible during the day. Two famous examples are the Guest Star of Taurus in 1054 and Tycho’s Star of Cassiopeia in 1572.

Brilliant meteors have, on occasion, been seen flaring across the daytime sky. One such meteor blazed a path across the Grand Tetons in August of 1972, and was seen by tens of thousands of people. A few comets have also been seen in the daytime. The Great Comets of 1843 and 1882 could be seen even when they were right next to the sun. They likely were each at least 100 times brighter than the full Moon. In fact, the 1882 comet was compared to the flame emitted by a smelting furnace.

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So, if the Moon is bright enough to be seen by day, why can’t we see it every day? When the Moon is full, and at its brightest, it sits directly opposite the Sun in the sky, which means it is below the horizon while the Sun is up. The New Moon rises during the day, but sits too close to the Sun to be seen. It sets at night, which is why the night sky is dark during the New Moon. It’s only as the Moon gets close to its quarter phases that the conditions are ideal for it to be seen during the day. That is, it is bright enough, far enough away from the Sun to be seen, and rises or sets during daylight hours. When all of these conditions come together, and when the sky is clear enough, the Moon becomes visible during the daytime.

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17 comments

1 Bri { 08.31.17 at 10:25 am }

For those condemning the heliocentric model, may I recommend a free astronomy download, Stellarium (dot org), a planetarium for your computer that is an excellent aid in understanding why a full (or more likely, nearly full) moon can be visible in the daytime sky. Also, I would like to point out that for those of us who have observed predicted solar eclipses (or any astronomical phenomena), those predictions were generated by the aforementioned heliocentric model. Spend the time to study and observe the magnificence of creation, and you may better appreciate the turns of phrase used in the Bible to describe it.

2 Bri { 08.31.17 at 10:06 am }

Darrold Fountain, from where (what time zone) are you writing? On the 23rd of July 2017, the moon should have been too new (new moon at about 9:16 UTC) for you to see it at all. And with the sun still visible, no planet should be bright enough for you to see. Are you used to the horizon where you are observing? Could it have been a distant building (silo, satellite dish, etc.)?

3 Darrold Fountain { 07.23.17 at 9:14 pm }

Ok it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I’m seeing what appears to be a moon. After reading the comments and answers section I’m now under the impression the moon is visible only during morning and evening skies. Also it’s now probable I’d seen a planet! Lol wow. Though it was so large and clearly visible I’m siding with the impossibility of it being a planet. I came for an afternoon moon. So… What’s up doc?

4 Susan Higgins { 05.03.17 at 2:38 pm }

Hi question: We checked with our astronomer, Joe Rao, and he reports there is no official term for a daytime Moon.

5 question { 05.02.17 at 2:42 pm }

What is the term for a visible moon in the daytime?

6 Dave { 02.23.17 at 9:15 pm }

To see a full moon in broad daylight proves the Heliocentric model is a LIE. It should be impossible to see a full moon in the daytime, but we do proving the earth to be flat. Another easy is observing the planet Mercury in the night sky at least 45min after sunset are photos. This is also impossible with Mercury being the first planet and its orbit around the sun gives no line of sight or angle from the night side of earth to see it, but we do. Another hole in Heliocentric reality that’s spoon fed to you..

7 Braden Mende { 02.09.17 at 12:40 am }

Yes, the earth is flat. It is the biblical model psalm 19:4-6

8 adam { 11.21.16 at 10:07 pm }

more like you can see the moon during the day because the earth is flat.. wake up people.

9 denise duff { 03.14.16 at 4:23 pm }

Can a daytime moon be seen at night too.and y

10 Rosia Morrison { 02.25.15 at 1:05 pm }

I love reading your articles, they are so interesting and informative. I really like the ones about the solar system and how much I can learn from them. Thank you so much .

11 Constant Light | the wild plum { 02.03.15 at 3:44 am }

[…] Photo c/o: Farmer’s Almanac // Illustration c/o the lovely Brian […]

12 Jaime McLeod { 11.07.12 at 11:58 am }

Niquenak – The article explains how this is possible. It’s a very common phenomenon.

13 Niquenak { 11.07.12 at 8:35 am }

Wednesday 07 Nov 2012 11.00 GMT . For the last three days at about 11 in the morning ( I live in London) The Moon, at least I think it is the moon, has been visible midway between South and West, at about 70 degrees, the Sun has obviously been “up” for hours and appears to be within the same 90 degree angle as the Moon. The Moon however is in a certain phase, i.e. it is only showing about 40% of itself. However the Sun, up in the same vicinity of the sky to the same visible Moon , does not seem to be able to illuminate the whole of the Moon ( Visible to it ‘the Sun’) SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN how this is possible ! or am I simply seeing reflections from our 3rd Dimension or reflections from other dimensions? HELP PLEASE EXPLAIN IN A WAY I CAN UNDERSTAND

14 Kathy Mehren { 08.06.12 at 11:53 am }

I have wondered for years why the moon is out in the daytime. When my son was about three years old, he stumped his father and me.. I asked a friend who was a teacher and I came away still not understanding. Thank you for your information.

15 Jenny { 03.29.11 at 11:33 pm }

New to our first grade science core this year is a study of the moon in the daytime sky. How do I know at what time of the day and year it will be most visible?

16 Joe Rao { 07.12.10 at 5:42 pm }

Hi Joey,

Several ways you could do this:

1) The easiest is to locate Venus right around the time of sunset. Carefully note its position in the sky relative to foreground and/or distant objects. Now head out the following day about five or ten minutes earlier and concentrate on that particular part of the sky that you were looking at the day before. You should be able to pick up Venus appearing as a tiny white speck against the blue sky . . . even though the Sun is still above the horizon.

2) Wait until the crescent Moon passes through the same part of the sky. The Moon is a much easier object to see in the daytime because of its larger angular size. If you know where Venus is relative to the Moon, you should be able to locate it against the daytime sky. This month, Venus will appear closest to the Moon on July 14. Check out this diagram from Sky & Telescope magazine:
http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/ataglance

3) A somewhat more complicated method is find a star in the sky that has the same declination as Venus. Then, based on the difference in the hour angles/right ascension between the two objects, Venus can be readily located. Unless you’re into the technical aspects of astronomy I won’t get into an explanation as to how to do this . . . but I’ve used this method many times to find Venus during the middle of day through my telescope.

Of course try to do this on a day when the sky is clear with no clouds or haze around. And it would also do yourself well to use binoculars to scan around that part of the sky where you presume Venus is located; the best type to employ for this job are 7 x 35 binos with a wide angle (11-degree) field, but you can also use regular 7 x 35 or 7 x 50 binos as well.

Good Luck!
Joe Rao
Staff Astronomer
The Farmers’ Almanac

17 Joey { 07.12.10 at 10:21 am }

Where can you look to find Venus during the day.

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