The brilliant planet Venus and tiny Mercury take center stage these amazing, and rare, daytime sky photos captured this month by an amateur astronomer.
Skywatching photographer Chris Shur snapped the striking views of a crescent Venus and bright Mercury on Jan. 18 from Payson, Ariz. At the time, both planets were 10 degrees - about the width of a closed fist held at arm's length - to either side of the noontime sun.
"It's not often you can shoot two planets in broad daylight with the sun nearing the zenith, with the planets on both sides of the sun," Shur told SPACE.com in an email. [Amazing Stargazing Photos for January 2014]
In Schur's photos, Venus appeared as a very thin crescent. Mercury, meanwhile, was on the far side of the sun, appears as a small round disk.
Both of Schur's images are at the same scale for comparison. He took the photos with an Explore Scientific AR152 refractor telescope (6-inch) mounted on the side of the 12-inch, DMK 51AU03.AS camera, and Baader Continuum + IR/UV blocker filter.
"It's like seeing dusk and dawn at the same time," Shur said. "The refractor was stopped to 4 inches, and the sunlight did not enter the telescope."
Warning: Never use telescopes or binoculars to look near the sun without proper filters to protect your eyesight. Serious eye damage can occur. Astronomers and photographers like Schur use special filters to protect their eyesight while observing the sun.
To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by SPACE.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.
Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.