This Week's Amazing Sky: The Evening Star

Jan 29, 2016
Venus, Planet of Paradox


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Welcome to our night sky exploration. Let's have fun! I know you've already spotted the Evening Star after sunset.  

It generates more UFO reports than any other object.  It's simply the brightest thing in the sky, after the Moon. It's Venus, the closest planet to us.

Right now, Venus is about as high up as it can get. As evening twilight deepens, it's more than a third of the way up the western sky, and remains dazzling for hours. It's astronomy made easy.

At this week's end, it will float in the same spot that the Sun occupies on the summer solstice—meaning, it's at its farthest north of the year, which is one reason it's so prominent for us northern hemisphere folks.

The next evening you see the Evening Star, share these half dozen cool facts about it: 

  • It's the shiniest planet in the universe. 
  • It's so reflective because it's covered with brilliant white clouds made of sulfuric acid droplets. 
  • Venus is [also] the slowest spinning body in the known universe. You can walk as fast as it rotates!
  • It's the hottest of all worlds. 
  • And it is the only one whose size closely matches our own beloved Earth.

Does this bright body look magical? Surreal?  Last year, 2014, it was essentially invisible.  Now that it's back and at its most glorious.

What do you think when you see it? Does it impart a unique, well, feeling?  Share your thoughts.

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

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My cousin sent me a photo of

My cousin sent me a photo of the Moon and an extra planet that looks green close to the one photo it was on the left side of the moon and then a while later it was on the right side of the moon. Can any one tell me what it was? She said it was very very early in the morning...sometime after midnight when she took the photos with her phone.

The night sky is endlessly

The night sky is endlessly fascinating.I was wondering if that planet was Venus or Jupiter, thank you for answering that question. And thank you GeorgeWilson, I always have that same queston.

Technically, Venus is neither

Technically, Venus is neither a morning nor evening star, because it's a planet. :-)

Thanks, this is a great

Thanks, this is a great column. If Venus is one-third of the way up at twilight, does it stay there or where does it move? It would be neat to see or understand its path when I drive home later at night.

As each evening progresses,

As each evening progresses, Venus sinks lower at the same rate that the moon or sun would. This week it finally sets between 11 Pm and midnight. It will retain roughly its present height, each evening 40 minutes after sunset, throughout the next month -- but will get lower after that.

Forgive a dumb question, but

Forgive a dumb question, but why is Venus sometimes called an Evening Star and sometimes a Morning Star?

Because sometimes it is the

Because sometimes it is the most prominent point of light in the morning sky.

From Earth's perspective, Venus and Mercury appear to shuttle back and forth from one side of the Sun to the other, so (unless there is a solar eclipse) we can only view those planets around sunrise and sunset.

Venus alternates between the

Venus alternates between the morning and evening skies in a 19 1/2 month cycle.

I thought Mercury was the

I thought Mercury was the hottest planet, not Venus. What is the difference in temperature, and why?

Mercury is closest to the

Mercury is closest to the Sun, but it doesn't have an atmosphere like Venus does.

The two planets are

The two planets are intriguingly different. Venus has the hotter surface because, yes, its thick atmosphere traps in the heat. Yet its temperature doesn't change between its day and night. Mercury, though a bit less hot during the day, drops an amazing 1000 degrees at night, and therefore has the greatest day/night variation of any body in the known universe.

love this new column!

love this new column! Succinct and interesting!


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