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Q: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   8 Comments )
Subject: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
Category: Science
Asked by: aceresearcher-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 12 Feb 2003 22:56 PST
Expires: 14 Mar 2003 22:56 PST
Question ID: 160785
When I was young, I remember leaving my grandparents' house near Des
Moines, IA, one evening and being dumbstruck by the appearance of the
Evening Star (planet Venus), actually appearing as if it were inside
the crescent of a partial moon. Knowing that the darkened portion of
the moon eclipsed by the Earth should have blocked the view of Venus
if its line-of sight was really through the center of the moon, I was
utterly amazed at the apparition.

I wasn't the only one who saw it: I also remember reading about this
phenomenon in the newspaper a couple of days later (I'm guessing this
would have been early to mid-1970's), and the article said that Venus
had in fact been just to the right of the darkened side of the moon,
but that distortions caused by the distance between Earth, the moon,
and Venus in combination with the bending of light through the
atmosphere had been responsible for the "miraculous" event.

Some years later I became good friends with a professional astronomer
(whose specialty, unfortunately, was dwarf stars). When I told him
about this memory of mine, he laughed and insisted that I was nuts,
that such a thing was not possible and had never occurred. To this
day, I have still never seen or heard any other reference to this

So... what I would like to find is at least one publicly-available
(preferably on the Internet) account from a credible source (NASA,
Griffith or other astronomical observatory, professional astronomer,
etc -- or 2 accounts if from amateur astronomers) describing (and
hopefully explaining) this particular event (not just the phenomena in
general). Similar actual events elsewhere in the world are also

Request for Question Clarification by easterangel-ga on 12 Feb 2003 23:16 PST
Hi aceresearcher-ga.

This one came from the Ask the Professor website of NASA.

Is this the one you are looking for and can I post it as an answer?

Clarification of Question by aceresearcher-ga on 12 Feb 2003 23:33 PST

It's not clear to me from this page that they are talking about the
phenomenon that I described; it just says they are seen "together",
and it doesn't show a picture. What I'm looking for is an occurrence
where it actually looked like Venus was sitting inside the C curve of
the crescent moon, which we know is impossible, since Venus is farther
away than the moon, and there is really darkened moon inside the curve
of the crescent. Besides, the dates are far too frequent; if this sort
of phenomenon happened all the time, other people would have heard of
it, and I should have easily found something in my cursory web search
for it.

If you're up for it, please keep looking for me -- you know I will
repay you with -- er, a proper demonstration of appreciation! ;-)


Request for Question Clarification by easterangel-ga on 12 Feb 2003 23:44 PST
Ok ace I will open up this one so others could take a crack at it. I
will still try to look for it though. Thanks.

Clarification of Question by aceresearcher-ga on 13 Feb 2003 00:20 PST
Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
Answered By: eiffel-ga on 13 Feb 2003 14:13 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi aceresearcher,

Here is a beautiful photograph of the moon and Venus together above

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2002 June 19

Although Venus is more than one lunar diameter away from the moon in
that photo, the effect is striking!

Notice how the lit crescent of the moon appears to be enlarged by
comparison to the rest of the moon. Now imagine that same photo, but
with Venus moved to the dark edge of the moon. I think it would then
look as if Venus was within the circle of the moon. Would that be
similar to what you saw?

The apparent enlargement of the lit portion of the moon in the above
photo is presumably due to atmospheric diffraction. However, an even
greater apparent enlargement is perceived when the human eye views a
bright object against a dark background. This has been known at least
since 1491, when it was documented by Leonardo da Vinci.

"... that object which is of a brighter surface will appear of a
larger shape. A piece of iron ... half of which is glowing is the
proof, because that which is glowing appears larger than the rest.":
Appearance and Illusion

This effect has been investigated by Richard F. Haines, a NASA
research scientist who specialized in the problems of human
perception. He measured a perceived increase in size of up to 75% for
very bright, small objects (presumably the effect is smaller for an
object the size of the moon). However, his papers are from the 1960s
and I can't find them online. Haines has published almost a dozen
papers on this topic, of which the most directly relevant is:
Haines, R. F. "Changes in Perceived Size of High Luminance Targets
Aerospace Medicine, 40 (1969): 754-58.

I realise that I haven't answered your question exactly as asked (and
I haven't attempted to duplicate the information provided by
knowledge_seeker-ga and thx1138-ga). Nevertheless, I hope there's
enough here to tie together the conjecture that what you saw was a
normal perception of a close approach of Venus to the dark side of the
moon, due to the apparent enlargement of the moon "engulfing" the

Additional links:

Russell's Astronomy Site - Saturn Occultation 16-4-02
This animated GIF image shows a sequence of photographs taken of the
moon passing in front of Saturn.

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2002 December 4
Another photograph of the moon and venus, showing the apparent
enlargement of the crescent. Again, imagine the effect if Venus was on
the dark edge of the moon (note that photo has been deliberately
overexposed to show the "dark edge").

The True Origin of Allah: The Archaeological Record Speaks
Ancient depictions of stars and planets within the crescent moon
(scroll down to the second occurrence of "Anatolian").

Yet another photo showing apparent enlargement of the bright part of
the moon.

Google search strategy:

jupiter OR saturn OR planet "in front of the moon" appears

"inside the crescent" moon

"bright objects appear larger"

venus "within OR between the horns of the moon"

Google image searches:

"in front of the moon"
(unsuccessful search)


Google Groups searches:

"in front of the moon" venus -sailor


Clarification of Answer by eiffel-ga on 13 Feb 2003 23:50 PST
Thanks for the kind tip, ace. It was an enjoyable (although lengthy)
topic to research.
aceresearcher-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $3.00
Great explanation and support links -- Thanks!!!

Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: knowledge_seeker-ga on 13 Feb 2003 05:13 PST
Hey Ace!

Not an answer I'm afraid, but one step towards confirming that you
aren't crazy. :-)  It seems your phenomena does exist and has been
commented on.

After many trial and error search combinations, I tried: 

venus "in front of the moon"  

8 pages in I found this ---

"The front page piece called, Planets to Put on Moonlit Dance,
how Venus and Jupiter will appear to almost join in front of a
moon to form a small bright cluster in front of the moon. The
interesting thing about the article is that Daryl Schrader, a
of astronomy at St. Petersburg Junior College, says that this type of
stellar configuration is in his words" of the explanations put
forward for the Christmas star, the star of Bethlehem" "We may be
witnessing something similar to what the Magi saw" This article was in
the Saturday, Feb 20 edition should any of you like to access it. The
piece says that Tuesday evening, Feb 23, at dusk in the western sky
be the best time for seeing these two planets as they can be seen
simultaneously through one telescope.

BPR Mailing List Digest 
February 21-28, 1999


Frustratingly, The St Petersburg Times Archives only goes back to Oct
2001. All of Mr. Schrader's columns back to that point are archived,
and the title suggested by the mailing list posting above is
in-keeping with his style.

The St Petersburg Times Archives – search results for Daryl Schrader


There isn't much info on Daryl Schrader's websites. I was hoping for
texts of publications but found none. I did confirm however that, "In
addition he does the monthly astronomy column for the St. Petersburg

Daryl Schrader – Office

Daryl Schrader – Personal site 
* contains annoying Comet Cursor popup


I'd say Mr. Schrader is your man. He looks like a friendly guy. I'd
bet a quick email to him would net you an answer to your question.   I
leave it to you to take it from here.

Good Luck!

Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: thx1138-ga on 13 Feb 2003 05:20 PST
Again not an answer Im afraid, but 2 sites of a religious nature that
mention Venus appearing in front of the Moon.......

"Confronted with this image upon ancient Babylonian kudurru, leading
scholars have routinely held that it signifies Venus set within the
horns of the crescent Moon.19 Scholars of Moslem religion--where the
star and crescent forms the leading symbol--have offered a similar
opinion.20 But such a relationship between Venus and Moon is quite
impossible from an astronomical standpoint. Why then would ancient
cultures all around the world fixate upon the same imaginary image?"

"Consider also the other symbol of Islam that appeared on the eastern
shores of the Pacific on July 17, 2001. At midday, the moon occulted
Ishtar (Venus) in broad daylight. The event was perfectly visible to
anyone who looked straight above at the proper time. Personally, I saw
the event not at the moment of occulting, but at the moment Venus
reappeared at 11:55 AM. Since the moon was approximately an hour ahead
of the sun, its eastern limb was all that could be made out in the
bright sky. Opposite the limb of the moon Venus appeared as I watched.
What I saw was the symbol of Islam come into view directly over
Southern California"

By the way I checked the above dates and locations on a star chart 
( and indeed Venus and our Moon were very close.
You should be able to see the chart here:

Good luck in your quest.

Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: answerfinder-ga on 13 Feb 2003 05:42 PST
I couldn’t find anything direct reference to this event.
How do these compare with your memory?

Occulations of Venus are rare. There is a web site which provides the
dates of the next event.
IOTA, the International Occultation Timing Association, Inc.

Could it be due to an optical illusion known as autokinesis which may
have placed Venus slightly in a different position?
"Due to an optical illusion known as autokinesis, Venus can appear to
bob and weave in the sky. This effect is due to small motions of the
eye muscles and not because Venus itself is moving. (In fact, this
effect accounts for many UFO sightings.)"

Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: leep-ga on 13 Feb 2003 12:55 PST
Hey ace.  I started a thread about this on sci.astro.amateur but so
far haven't received a solution.  Here are some of the comments posted
by others there though:

"Can't happen.  Extreme variations in atmospheric refraction might
make it
appear to impinge on the dark limb a slight amount, but never enough
appear in the "center".  That amount of distortion would have a full
looking much like a half moon and as far as I know, that's also never
happened.  Distance to the object has nothing to do with it. The light
paths are essentially unchanged in space and light rays from both
travel through the same amount of atmosphere."
[And regarding your mention of "the darkened portion of
the moon eclipsed by the Earth"...]
"The darkened portion of the crescent moon is not being eclipsed by
the Earth, it is merely the presence of the night side of the moon,
where the sun's rays were not falling.  During a crescent moon, the
moon is more in front of the Earth with respect to the sun, not
And one guy thinks you may simply be remembering the Algerian flag!:
Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: figure8out-ga on 13 Feb 2003 13:18 PST
Hi, I'm not a google researcher, just your average busybody, but I
thought this was a great and intriguing question so
I hope you don't mind if I throw my two cents in. Although I was
unable to find a specific reference to
the Des Moines incident you witnessed, I think what you are describing
is an example of 'Earthshine,' which is a reflection of the
Earth's albedo on the lunar surface.

As you can see from this site

the appearance of Venus nearby gives a spectacular sight.  Evidently
April 14, 2002 was a good night to see this, with Venus at about 5

Leonardo da Vinci explained Earthshine (often described romantically
as "the old moon in the new moon's arms") like this in the The Codex

" . . . .that glimmer visible in the middle between the horns of the
new moon . . . this brightness at such a time being derived from our
oceans, which are at that time illuminated by the sun, which is then
on the point of setting . . . ."

In fact, in Leonardo's sketch of Earthshine you can see a point of
light in the very middle of the moon, giving the illusion that Venus,
or a star,
is visible and that the moon has turned transparant.

Here's some of what a really fantastic site has to say:

"The Moon, like every other planet and satellite in the solar system,
shines not with its own light but with the reflected light of the Sun.
This means that at any point in time one half of the Moon is lit while
the other half is in darkness. As the Moon revolves around the
Earth, over a period of about 29 days, a varying proportion of the
illuminated half can be seen from the Earth. The boundary between
the light and dark halves, called the terminator, migrates from east
to west across the lunar surface and, because the Moon is spherical,
creates the familiar phases: crescent, full, etc. 

The last phase is a crescent again, ending with another chance to see
the effect of earthshine (this time called "the new moon in the old
moon's arms"). Then, about 29 days after the last new moon, another
takes place, with the Sun and Moon rising and setting at much the
same times, and the whole process repeats.

So basically what you're seeing is a reflection of the Earth's glow on
the new moon.

It is also possible that you witnessed Lunar Transient Phenomena and
Earthshine at the same time!

"The definition of Lunar Transient Phenomena (L.T.P.) is a short lived
phenomenon observed on the Moon. This can consist of red glows,
flashes, obscuration, and abnormal albedo and shadow effects." 

Anyway I hope this helps you or any other researcher to find a
definitive answer to this provocative question.
Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: figure8out-ga on 13 Feb 2003 19:19 PST
I realize the question has been answered, but I found a few sources of
recorded instances of the phenomena you describe, so I thought I'd
share them,

In November, 1668 in Boston, Cotton Mather wrote that "a star appear'd
below the body of the moon within the horns of it."  Source: Stratton,
F.J.M.; "The Horned Moon with One Bright Star," Observatory, 70: 159,

Quite famously, and usually drawing snorts of derision from
astronomers, Coleridge writes in the Rime of The Ancient Mariner
"Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned moon with one bright star 
within the nether tip"
Rime of the Ancient Mariner, part 3
cited in Ashbrook, Joseph: "Coleridge's 'Star within the Moon', Sky
and Telescope, 28:335, 1964

Walter Haas in, "Does Anything Ever Happen on the Moon?" (Royal
Astronomical Society of Canada, Journal 36:374, 1942)  records " . .
.a Dr. Lind and his wife were visiting William Herschel at Datchet, a
star was occulted at the dark limb of the moon.  Mrs. Lind . . .
placed herself at a telescope and watched attentively.  Scarcely had
the star disappeared before Mrs. Lind thought she saw it again, and
exclaimed that the star had gone in front of, and not behind the moon.
 This provoked a short astronomical lecture on the question, but still
she could not cred it, because she saw differently.  Finally Herschel
stepped to the telescope, and in face he saw a bright point on the
dark disc of the moon, which he followed attentively.  It became
fainter and finally vanished."

In "The Crescent Moon with a Star within its Rim," published in
Science, 18:346, 1891 is reported a bright spot that looked like a
star or a planet within the shaded portion of the lunar surface.

There's a story in "Optical Illustion during the Occulatation of
Mars," in the British Astronomical Association Journal, 48:179, 1938
that, "On July 17, while walking down the King's Road, Chelsea, with
two others (unaware of the predicted occultation of Mars), we saw the
Moon above the house-tops, with a planet in close proximity.   . . .It
was evident that an occulatation was about to take place.  But instead
of disappearing on the dark limb of the Moon, the planet appeared to
enter the dark field of the Moon's surface and to continue to travel
across it, until it vanished on reaching the illuminated edge of the
Moon.  We discussed this mysterious phenomenon as it occured.  It
lasted several minutes.  We could only account for it by some optical
illusion, which we presumed would be a matter of common knowledge and
frequent occurence, to be easily explained by astronomers."

There's more but I'll stop now.  These are taken from  "The Moon and
The Planets: A Catalog of Astronomical Anomalies," compiled by the
incomparible and indefatigable William R. Corliss.  1985, The
Sourcebook Project.  Mr. Corliss offers as possible explanations,
"reflection of sunlight from lunar features (usually near the
terminator); incandescent lunar materials (lava and gases);
triboelectric phenomena; piezoelectric phenomena (perhaps akin to
earthquake lights); meteroes in the earth's atmosphere (i.e., spurious
TLP's. . . . )
mirage action (refraction) in transitory lunar gases; simple (?
[Corliss' question mark]) optical illusion, irradiation, diffraction. 
The latter suggestions do not really seem to explain all facets of the

Whew.  What a strange world we live in.
Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: aceresearcher-ga on 13 Feb 2003 22:09 PST

Thank you VERY much for your great Comments! I am sorry that I can not
slide you a couple of dollars for the enjoyment they brought me.

Much appreciation,

Subject: Re: Venus Inside the Crescent Moon
From: figure8out-ga on 14 Feb 2003 09:50 PST
Oh, thanks, Ace!  I think from the great answer Eiffel gave and all of
the interesting comments from everyone else it looks like somebody
could--and maybe should--write a book about this subject!  But I got
paid for my research--I did the majority of it while slacking off at

Happy Valentine's Day


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