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Venus and Jupiter

October 23, 2015

The planet Venus is putting on quite a show. It’ll stand farthest from the Sun for its current “morning star” appearance in a few days, so it rises several hours before the Sun and is well up in the eastern sky at first light. It’s at its “first-quarter” phase now, so sunlight illuminates half of the hemisphere that faces our way. And over the next few days, it’ll pass quite close to the next-brightest object in the night sky, the planet Jupiter.

Venus is the second planet out from the Sun, while Earth is third. So as seen from Earth, Venus always stays fairly close to the Sun. At best, it’s visible for a few hours before sunrise or after sunset. Right now, the viewing angle is such that Venus is as far from the Sun as it gets.

And because Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, we see it go through a cycle of phases, just as the Moon does. It lines up at a right angle to the Earth-Sun line right now, so we see a half-illuminated disk. Over the coming months, Venus will slide behind the Sun as seen from Earth, so the Sun will light up more and more of its visible surface.

And finally, Venus is lining up close to Jupiter, which is outside Earth’s orbit. Venus will stand a little higher than Jupiter tomorrow, almost even with it on Sunday, and a little below Jupiter on Monday — continuing its beautiful showing in the morning sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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