Venus at its best appearance for 2013

The nearest planet to Earth appears high in the sky and shines bright in November and December.
By | Published: October 29, 2013 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Venus and the Moon on November 6
Venus appears farthest from the Sun in November’s evening sky, but the highlight of its month comes on the 6th, when the Moon passes near.
Astronomy: Kellie Jaeger
The dazzling light currently shining in the western sky is our sister planet, Venus. November 1 marks the start of five weeks of excellent viewing of this “evening star.” On that day, Venus reaches its greatest elongation, meaning the planet attains its greatest angle away from the Sun as seen from Earth. It then glows at magnitude –4.5 and lies 47° from the Sun.

Venus, however, lies low in the sky November 1, but it climbs higher as the month progresses. This apparent contradiction is due to solar system geometry. The Sun’s path, called the ecliptic, makes a shallow angle to the horizon; the planets also follow this path across the sky. This means that Venus’ elongation from the Sun translates into more distance along the horizon than altitude above it. Even though our sister planet stands just 11° above the horizon an hour after sunset on November 1, it will move to 15° high by November 30.

“Venus travels against a dense stellar background, setting up great views through binoculars this month,” says Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich. “On the 6th, it passes 8° south of a crescent Moon and two bright nebulae — the Lagoon (M8) and the Trifid (M20) — between the pair. Then, on the 13th, the planet lies 3° south of globular star cluster M22.”

Venus shines brighter and climbs higher in the evening sky during early December 2013
Venus shine brighter and climbs higher in the evening sky during early December than at any other time during this apparition.
Astronomy: Jay Smith

Throughout November and into December, Venus’ appearance will continue to improve, as it ascends higher in the sky and brightens. Then, on December 6, Venus shines at magnitude –4.9, the brightest it ever gets. It’s so bright, in fact, that you might be able to see a shadow: Try waving your hand above a fresh blanket of snow.

Look for Venus as this point in time 15° above the horizon an hour after the Sun goes down. An extra treat occurs December 5 when it again slides below a waxing crescent Moon.

Fast facts about Venus

  • At greatest elongation November 1, Venus lies 61.6 million miles (99.1 million kilometers) from Earth.
  • At greatest brilliancy December 6, Venus lies 37.8 million miles (60.8 million kilometers) from Earth.
  • Our sister planet orbits the Sun in 225 days.
  • Venus is 7,521 miles (12,104 kilometers) in diameter, or 95 percent the size of Earth.
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