After commanding the western sky as the “evening star” for most of the year, the planet Venus is making a move. It’s disappeared from view as it crosses between Earth and the Sun. It’ll return to view in a few days — this time as the morning star.
Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth is — like being on the inside lane of a race track. So it overtakes Earth every 584 days — about 19 and a half months. That point is called inferior conjunction, and it’s where Venus is today.
The planet is also closest to Earth — about 27 million miles away. And that means it moves across our sky in a hurry — the reason it’ll stay out of sight for only a few days, hidden in the Sun’s glare.
When Venus returns to view, it’ll be a thin crescent — like a crescent Moon. The crescent will grow thicker in a hurry, though, making the planet look brighter. But Venus will be moving away from us, which makes it fainter. When you combine those factors, Venus will reach its peak brilliance on September 18th. It’ll slowly fade through the rest of the year, but not by a whole lot. It will remain the brightest object in the night sky other than the Moon.
Depending on your location, Venus should climb into view, quite low in the east, during the dawn twilight in the next week or two. It’ll move farther from the Sun day by day after that, taking command of the morning sky — as the brilliant “morning star.”
Script by Damond Benningfield