The work week kicks off with a beautiful encounter in the dawn sky — a conjunction between the crescent Moon and Venus, the “morning star.”
After the Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the night sky. It’s so bright that at first glance, you might think it’s a lot closer than it really is — perhaps an approaching airplane with its landing lights turned on.
Even the professionals can get confused. Early last year, for example, a pilot who was waking up from a nap on an overnight trans-Atlantic flight briefly mistook the planet for a nearby cargo plane.
That’s not the first time a pilot has mistaken Venus for something else. Over the years, some pilots have even given chase. People on the ground have chased the planet, too, while others thought it was chasing them — a bright light in the sky that they couldn’t seem to shake. And lots of people have reported the planet as a UFO.
That’s all just an illusion, though. If you watch for a minute or so, you’ll see that Venus isn’t moving — it’s remaining in the same spot compared to the stars around it.
So if you happen to be driving down a dark country lane before dawn over the next few months, and a brilliant point of light in the sky seems to be following you, just relax. That’s not a flying saucer, it’s the brightest pinpoint of light in the night sky — the planet Venus. Well, it’s probably Venus, anyway.
More about Venus, the Moon, and another bright object tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.