Moon and Venus

StarDate: March 26, 2014

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A beautiful conjunction highlights the dawn sky tomorrow. The planet Venus — the “morning star” — lines up close to the right or lower right of the crescent Moon. They climb higher as twilight paints the eastern sky, adding color to the scene.

Venus sways back and forth between the morning sky and evening sky, but never climbs too high into either. That’s because it orbits between Earth and the Sun. It’s like we’re in the outside lane of a racetrack, with Venus on the inside lane. So as we look toward the planet, it can never move too far from the middle of the track — in this case, the Sun.

On average, Venus spends about eight months in good view in the morning sky, then eight months in the evening sky. Its path across the sky looks like a cosmic roller coaster. This path repeats itself every eight years. So wherever Venus appears on a given day, it’ll appear in almost exactly the same spot eight years later. So we can look for Venus just where it is right now in March of 2022.

Venus’s closer orbit also accounts for a good bit of its brightness. Since the planet is so close to the Sun, a lot of sunlight hits it and reflects back into space. And since it’s close to Earth as well, a lot of that light is directed at our own planet — making Venus the brightest pinpoint of light in the night sky.

So keep an eye on Venus as it lines up near the Moon early tomorrow, and remains in the morning sky through summer.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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