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The planet Venus has been showing some polite discretion the last few weeks. It’s stayed out of view, allowing one of its siblings to get all the attention. But now it’s beginning to return. It’s quite low in the southwest in the early evening twilight, and will climb a little higher each night throughout the month — beginning a long reign as the brilliant “evening star.” That means it’ll share the spotlight with bright orange Mars, which is putting in its best appearance of the year.
Venus has been out of view because it’s been passing “behind” the Sun as seen from Earth — a point called superior conjunction. It’s moved from the morning sky to the evening sky.
Superior conjunction happens every 19 and a half months. Venus is farthest from Earth at that point — about 160 million miles. So from our perspective, the planet moves across the sky quite slowly. That means it stays close to the Sun for several months — hidden from view in the sunlight.
The orbits of Venus and Earth are almost perfectly synchronized. Venus completes eight orbits around the Sun for every five orbits of Earth — give or take a couple of days. That means Venus appears at almost exactly the same point in the sky every eight years. So you can look for Venus just where it is now — low in the southwest at sunset — in early December of 2030.
For now, watch Venus throughout the month as it climbs higher into the sky — bookending the early evening with Mars.
Script by Damond Benningfield