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Venus Returns

October 28, 2011

After months of hiding in the Sun’s glare, the planet Venus is just returning to view. It’s quite low in the west as night begins to fall and sets by the time it gets dark. But it’s so bright that if you have a clear horizon, you should be able to pluck it from the evening twilight. And tonight, there’s a bright marker to guide you to it: the crescent Moon, which is well to the upper left of Venus. Within a couple of weeks, Venus will be in better view as the brilliant “evening star.”

Venus crossed behind the Sun as seen from Earth more than two months ago. It’s slowly been emerging into the evening sky ever since. But Venus and Earth have been acting like two cartoon characters chasing each other around a tree, never quite able to catch one another. In this case, as Venus moved along in its orbit around the Sun, Earth was moving in its orbit, keeping the two worlds more or less on opposite sides of the Sun.

But Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth is, so it moves faster, which is why it’s starting to climb into view. Over the next few months, it’ll move farther from the Sun as seen from Earth, so the viewing angle will get better. And because it’s in a smaller, faster orbit, it’ll start to catch up to us. It’ll catch us — and pass us by — in early June.

For now, though, watch as the planet Venus — the beautiful “evening star” — grows more prominent every night as it emerges from its bright hiding place.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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