Moon and Venus
After spicing up the evening sky for most of the year, Venus is bowing out as the "evening star." The brilliant planet is just a few degrees above the horizon at sunset, and sets soon afterward, so the viewing window is slim.
But this evening, Venus teams up one more time with the crescent Moon, which is above the planet. The view is a little better from the southern states, where the two bodies stand a little higher in the sky as early twilight begins to fade.
Late this month, Venus will pass between Earth and the Sun, so it'll be lost from view in the Sun's glare. The planet will be closest to Earth then, at about 27 million miles -- closer than any other planet ever gets to us.
Because it's so close now, Venus moves faster across the sky than at other times. The planet's speed in its orbit around the Sun isn't any faster than at other times, though -- only its apparent speed against the background of distant stars.
Because of that quick pace across our sky, Venus will return to view in early November -- this time in the morning sky. And by Thanksgiving, it'll be in grand view -- as the brilliant "morning star."
For a few more days, though, look for Venus very low in the southwestern sky shortly after sunset, and below the Moon this evening. The planet Mars is to the upper right of the Moon, but it's not nearly the spectacle that Venus is. In fact, you may need binoculars to pluck it from the fading twilight.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.