Every 584 days or so Venus lines up between the Earth and Sun. The event is called inferior conjunction (and Mercury is the only other planet that can do this).
Venus reached inferior conjunction today, January 11th 2014 and passed a little above the Sun in the sky - about 5 degrees (the length of 10 full moons).
Sometimes the alignment is exact and Venus is seen to transit the solar disk but that type of alignment is rare.
I took some images of Venus just before midday today and made this picture from them:
It's the planet Venus and today it's almost directly between the Earth and Sun. The photo looks a little blurry but the view through the eyepiece of the telescope was much clearer. Venus was shimmering with the turbulent seeing but it looked razor thin! The phase is almost new and just 0.04% of the disk is illuminated by the Sun, directly beneath Venus in the sky. The horns of the crescent seemed to extend more than half way around the disk, but the camera didn't pick up that detail.
It's very difficult (and a bit unsafe) to point a telescope so close to the Sun! Even when angled slightly above the Sun, some sunlight is still going through the objective lens and into the tube. The build up heat is potentially very damaging for the telescope.
I used an old portable whiteboard to block out the Sun and positioned it so that Venus was visible above it. That led to problems in itself as the wind was gusting and it blew the whiteboard over and it crashed into the telescope mount at one point!
Venus will remain close to the Sun in the sky for the next week or so before emerging in the morning sky before sunrise towards the end of the month.
Dr Adrian Jannetta
Guitar strummin' explorer of the universe. Mild mannered maths teacher by day and astronomer by night.