Venus and Spica

Venus and Spica

The brilliant “morning star” has a bright companion for the next few days. Tomorrow, they’ll be separated by only about one degree — less than the width of your finger held at arm’s length. And they’ll stay within a finger-width of each other for about a week.

The morning star is Venus, our closest planetary neighbor. It’s low in the east-southeast at first light. It’s the brightest object in the night sky other than the Moon, so you can’t miss it.

Its companion is the star Spica, the leading light of the constellation Virgo. It’s among the 20 brightest stars visible from Earth. Yet it’s only about a half a percent as bright as Venus.

The difference is a matter of distance. Venus is our closest planetary neighbor — just a few light-minutes away. It shines by reflecting sunlight into space.

Spica, on the other hand, is a true star — and a truly impressive one at that. It’s far bigger, heavier, and brighter than the Sun. That makes it easy to see even though it’s about 250 light-years from Earth.

Millions of years from now, Spica will shine even brighter. It’ll explode as a supernova. For a few weeks, it’ll outshine billions of normal stars. As seen from Earth, it’ll even outshine Venus — making it visible even in the daytime sky.

For now, look for Spica to the upper right of Venus beginning a couple of hours before sunrise. They’ll stay close for a while, before Venus begins to slide away from its bright companion.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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