Venus bright in the morning sky
Now is the best time to see Venus this year.
March 20, 2006
For more information, contact:
[t] 262.796.8776 x419
March 20, 2006
Astronomy offers a publication-quality finder chart below.
WAUKESHA, WI — The "morning star" Venus lights the sky before dawn, heralding spring's arrival. On March 25, the brilliant planet reaches its greatest western elongation — when the planet is as far west of the Sun as possible. Then, it sits just above the horizon in the east-southeast sky 2 hours before sunrise. Look for the waning crescent Moon passing to the right of the "morning star." Venus will be the bright object just to the upper left of the Moon.
Each day thereafter, Venus' sky position sinks closer to the horizon. Venus shone at its brightest, magnitude -4.6, in February, but the planet will dominate the morning sky throughout summer.
Take a look
To the naked eye, Venus' light rivals only moonshine in the early morning sky. But you can use a telescope to watch as the planet changes phases, like the Moon's, during the year. By March 25, its globe measures 25" through a telescope and has fattened to half-lit. It's at its brightest for the year now; even though the phase increases, its angular size decreases as the Earth-Venus distance increases.
Our "sister planet" lies an average of 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) from the Sun. Because Venus lies closer to the Sun than Earth, it always appears close to our star in the sky.
On March 26, Venus and the Moon help you spot a rarely seen planet: Neptune. At about 5 A.M. local time, Venus appears slightly north of (above) Neptune. The Moon lies just below and to the left of the planets.
Venus orbits the Sun in 225 days.Our sister planet is about 7,521 miles (12,104 km) in diameter, or 95 percent the size of Earth.The planet spins on its axis once every 243 days, but it spins in the opposite direction of Earth — on Venus, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.Venus' atmosphere is thick sulfuric-acid clouds, which reflect sunlight extremely well.The surface temperature on Venus can approach 900º Fahrenheit (482º Celsius); it's the hottest place in the solar system after the Sun.In Roman mythology, Venus was identified with the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. To the ancient Mayans, Venus was the patron planet of warfare called Kukulcan (the feathered serpent).
Venus climbs highest in the morning sky during March, when it reaches the peak of its predawn appearance.
Photo by Astronomy: Terri Field
|Also in the sky|
Throughout March — Saturn lies high in the southeast. An hour after sunset, the ringed planet shines at magnitude 0 and stands among the faint stars of Cancer the Crab.Through the end of March — Jupiter can be spotted in the southwest sky in the predawn sky.Wednesday, March 29 — A total solar eclipse darkens the sky over northern Africa and Asia. Astronomy magazine is leading two tour groups through the eclipse path. Visit Astronomy.com for special coverage.