The planet Venus is at its towering best right now. The “evening star” is high in the west at sunset — just about as high up as it ever gets. And it doesn’t set until 11 or 12, providing plenty of time to watch it.
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, while Earth is the third planet. So as seen from Earth, Venus never strays very far from the Sun. It’s visible for up to a few hours before sunrise or after sunset, but no more — it can’t remain in the sky all night, as some of the other planets do.
And for the next few days, it’s at its greatest extension from the Sun — about 46 degrees. Its path across the sky is tilted a bit, though, so it doesn’t stand quite that high above the horizon as the Sun sets. Still, this is just about as high in the evening sky as you’ll ever see it.
Because of the giant gap between Sun and Venus, this is a good time to look for the planet during daylight. It’s bright enough to see without any help — no binoculars or telescope are needed. It’s tough to pick out against the blue sky, though. But once you find it, it’s pretty easy to go back to.
A couple of hours before sunset, for example, Venus is high in the southwest. It’s to the upper left of the Sun, by about four and a half times the width of your fist at arm’s length.
If you can’t find it, though, no worries. Venus will be plenty bright once the Sun sets, and will remain in view until almost midnight — a long performance for the “evening star.”
Script by Damond Benningfield