Venus Returns

Venus Returns

Venus is trying to climb into view in the evening sky. The planet is very low in the west at sunset, and it sets well before twilight fades. It’s the brightest object in the sky other than the Sun and Moon, though, so it’s worth a try.

Venus is the second-closest planet to the Sun, so it’s inside Earth’s orbit. As a result, it always stays fairly close to the Sun in our sky. At best, it’s visible for a while after sunset or before sunrise.

Venus passed behind the Sun last month. Now, it’s pulling away from the Sun. Because of the relative motions of Venus and Earth, though, it doesn’t gain much ground from day to day. So it’s still only a few degrees away from the Sun, which keeps it immersed in the Sun’s glare.

And things are made worse by the time of year. The path Venus follows across the sky is tilted low at sunset. So instead of popping straight up into the sky, Venus glides at a low angle across the horizon. That keeps it low in the sky, and hard to see.

It’s especially hard to see from northern latitudes. The view is better from southern locations — Houston or Miami, for example — because Venus rises at a slightly better angle.

Tomorrow night is a good time to look for Venus. It’ll appear to the lower right of the Moon shortly after sunset. It’ll look like a bright star just above the horizon. Venus will climb into better view over the coming weeks. By late October, it’ll be visible from the whole country — as the bold “evening star.”

Script by Damond Benningfield

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