Vanishing Venus

StarDate: December 30, 2013

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.



The planet Venus is about to change addresses. It’s been shining as the brilliant “evening star” for several months now. But in just a few days it’ll leave the evening sky and move into the morning sky. It will reign as the “morning star” for most of next year.

The planet is changing locations because it’s about to cross between Earth and the Sun.

Venus is the second planet out from the Sun, while Earth is the third. Since Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth is, it moves faster in its orbit. So every 19-and-a-half months, Venus catches up to Earth and passes it by, crossing between us and the Sun.

When that happens, Venus is temporarily lost in the Sun’s glare. But it doesn’t stay lost for long. Venus is closest to Earth as it passes us, at a distance of about 25 million miles. At that range, it scoots across the sky in a hurry, so it doesn’t stay out of sight for long.

Right now, Venus is low in the west-southwest at sunset, and becomes visible through the glare of twilight a few minutes later. It outshines everything else in the night sky except the Moon, so as long as you have a clear horizon, you can’t miss it.

The planet will drop lower in the sky over the next few evenings, though, becoming tougher to see in the solar glare. It’ll cross between Earth and Sun on January 11th, and then climb into easy view in the morning sky within a few days — beginning a reign as the “morning star” that will last until early autumn.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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

The one constant in the Universe: StarDate magazine

FacebookTwitterYouTube

©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory