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Moon and Venus

StarDate: 
January 30, 2018

Venus huddles close to the Moon before and during dawn tomorrow. It’s the brightest point of light in the night sky, so you can’t miss it.

Venus moves back and forth between morning and evening skies. And because it’s so brilliant, it’s often called the morning or evening star. It’s not a star at all, of course — it’s a planet — and the closest one at that.

Venus follows a regular schedule of appearances in the sky. It’s visible in the morning for about nine months, then disappears behind the Sun for about two months. Then it’s nine months in the evening sky, followed by a week-long absence as it passes between Earth and the Sun.

These numbers are all rounded off, and they can vary depending on the precise geometry and even on the viewer’s latitude. But they add up to an average of 584 days. Five of these cycles add up to almost exactly eight years. So Venus will appear in almost exactly the same spot in the evening sky eight years from today.

Most cultures have understood for a long time that morning and evening Venus were really the same object. Even so, some of them maintained separate names for its different appearances. In Rome, for example, morning-star Venus was known as Lucifer — the bringer of light.

Whatever you call it, Venus will bring its light to the morning sky until summer. It’ll then disappear until fall — when it’ll return as the evening star.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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