Seeing the Crescent of Venus Naked-Eye

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As Venus approaches inferior conjunction, there has been some discussion lately on the Amastro yahoo group about viewing the growing crescent without optical aid. I had read about the possibility of doing this long ago, but never tried it. I have what I consider to be pretty hefty naked-eye astigmatism after dark and see horrible flaring around bright stars and planets. So trying to see the crescent after the sky has darkened too much is like trying to make out a whispered conversation in the middle of a rock concert. So, yesterday I tried to view the crescent a few minutes after sundown while the sky was still very bright. I didn't have to contend with flaring, and right away I seemed to pick up an elongation to the planet, and in about the right direction too. I was excited at the thought of actually seeing a weak crescent, but I toned my stokedness down a bit to do some experimenting. I began to tilt my head horizontally to the left and to the right to see if the elongation rotated with my head. And you know what? It did :( So there it was. Astigmatism.

I played around with covering one eye after the other, and got slightly different angles with each. I did that thing where you blink your eyes to smooth out the goo, and got an improvement in the 2-pointed-star situation. I grabbed some binoculars and easily made out the crescent at 10X. A passing plane gave me an opportunity to compare the size of Venus to some brightly reflecting features on the plane. Venus was about the same angular diameter as one of the reflecting wing engines. Without the binoculars, a slight irregularity did appear on that side of the plane, so I think I could theoretically just make out the horns of the planet, but my eyes just enjoy throwing spikes on bright things, so I'm probably out of luck.

I'll be trying again over the next few days just to be sure. I also plan on seeing the optomotrist in the next couple months, explaining my desire for better, precise vision at night and in dim light and see if they'll prescribe me a stronger diopter for just such occasions. (I don't need glasses otherwise.) I'll be curious to see if this helps me make better naked eye limiting magnitude estimates and just overall improves my naked-eye appreciation of the night sky.

Apologies for laxness in recent postings. I've been working very heavily on a couple projects recently (one of them astronomy-related), and it's taking a toll on my routine here.

3 Comments

I know this may sound ridiculous and difficult to believe coming from a stranger, but you should briefly check out the Bates Method for natural vision improvement if you'd like to see the crescent of Venus with the naked eye. Unlike many other highly commercialized and so-called eye 'exercises' out there, this is based on the serious work and research of a prominent eye doctor (who also discovered adrenalin) from 80 years ago. It's hard to explain, but there was a major controversy in the 1920s and this man found a way to reverse eyesight and other things like astigmatism, glaucoma, etc.

If this sounds too good to be true, listen to this. Bates discovered a serious flaw in Helmholtz's Theory of Accommodation which dates back to the 1850s, and no one in the optometry industry wished to accept this discovery. They were afraid of losing revenue because people wouldn't need glasses any longer. But Helmholtz's theory is still being taught to our optometrists, and it's exactly why nearly everyone thinks eyesight is irreversible nowadays. Including your optometrist.

It might be worth taking a look at, if you are interested in improving visual clarity in order to see Venus's crescent with the naked eye. I first read about the Bates Method by ordering a book from Amazon.com called [u]Relearning to See: Improve Your Eyesight Naturally[/u]. This book has 23 customer reviews and every review has given it 5/5 stars.

I've read through Bates' own journals which I also ordered from Amazon.com, they go by a book called [u]Better Eyesight: The Complete Magazines of William H. Bates[/u]. He did case studies on thousands of New York schoolchildren, and he taught optometrists himself. He studied the aboriginals (who can see 80/20) and also drew a correlation between memory, imagination, and eyesight. It is all very interesting stuff. This all is just fyi but it can help you with your astigmatism. Your optometrist may disagree based on what he's been taught, but why don't you check it out for yourself first. Go to Amazon and "search inside this book" for these books. It only takes five minutes and doesn't cost a penny. By the way, nice job on your site! I think you're a very gifted sketcher.

Kyle, thanks very much for the recommendation! The thought had never occurred to consider eye exercises for astronomical observing. I've wish-listed the two books you recommended and hope to give it a shot soon.

Thanks again,
Jeremy

Not a problem, Jeremy!

I would recommend getting Relearning to See first, in the event you decide to buy one of them.

There's enough misconception out there about eye exercises - which is why many people find them unsuccessful or temporarily successful. Bates taught techniques that we have to practice consciously first until they become good eye habits done subconsciously, the way people with good eyesight do. Bates studied people with both good and poor eyesight to get an idea of how vision really works. An example is, he found that staring is really harmful to the eyes, and blinking is a way to 'dodge' the stare. He also came up with principles of shifting and central fixation (regarding one point best at a time, such as looking at a part of a chair (a corner or leg) instead of the whole chair. Looking at the whole chair causes a person to ignore details and programs the mind to ignore details. It's interesting how the mind plays a role in how we see. Eyesight is not strictly an anatomical function.

Bates method is not like a program of 25-minute exercises, but rather something you can do as you're performing everyday tasks.

Fyi, I am 100% deaf (born hearing); and the thought of blindness (by age, illness, or accident) pushed me to do my own research on possible ways to prevent vision degeneration. I am well-known by others for my ability to get to the heart of matters, so I did my own research comparing reviews at Amazon.com on many different books on natural vision improvement before even buying a single book. There were a few criticisms of the eye 'exercises' books but none whatsoever of Bates Method, as you can tell there's 23 reviews and 5/5 ratings on Relearning to See. So I began from there and found that the principles are sound and make more sense than the misleading books and concepts that refer to eye muscles as weak and needing exercise. People with myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), and astigmatism use their eyes constantly and the muscles are up to 150-200 times tighter than they should to be, so it didn't quite make sense to me that exercises were the answer. Exercises do help the eye muscles relax temporarily, such as when you're done with a workout, and that provides temporary results. But relaxation through Bates Method provides permanent results.

Hope this info helps.

Kyle

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This page contains a single entry by Jeremy Perez published on December 30, 2005 12:27 PM.

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