Venus At Its Brightest
See this printable sky map for November 2018 to navigate the skies! This month, what is the brightest thing in the sky after the Sun and Moon? We’re talking about Venus, once thought to be Earth’s planetary twin.
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Venus at Its Brightest
The ancient Romans worshipped her as the goddess of love and beauty. Frankie Avalon recorded a #1 hit song about her. She is the brightest thing in the sky after the Sun and Moon. We’re talking about Venus, once thought to be Earth’s planetary twin.
In the second half of November, Venus will be as bright as it ever gets. To see the Venus show, you’ll need to wake up before sunrise and look toward the east-southeast. Venus will be—by far – the brightest object in the sky. Venus never ventures very far from the Sun, so it’s best viewed only a few times a year, when the planetary geometry is just right and then only shortly after sunset or shortly before sunrise. On these occasions, Venus is known as either the Evening Star or the Morning Star.
Venus and Earth DO have some things in common, though not as much as once thought. They are the second and third closest planets to the Sun. Being closer to the Sun means a year on Venus—the time it takes to revolve once around the Sun—lasts 224.7 days compared to Earth’s 365 days. The two planets are composed mainly of rocky material and are nearly the same size, with Venus just slightly smaller. If you weigh 125 pounds on Earth you would weigh about 113 pounds on Venus. Venus comes closer to Earth than any other planet, a mere 24 million miles, and that’s the main reason why it’s so bright.
Because of its similarities to Earth, Venus became the subject of some very fanciful (and quite incorrect) theories. Among the most popular was the supposed existence of complex life on Venus. It was imagined that because it is closer to the Sun than Earth, Venus might simply a warmer, wetter version of our planet. Some believed Venus to be a world of rain forests and jungles, replete with giant trees, dinosaurs, and even intelligent Venusians.
As our scientific knowledge advanced, astronomers learned that Venus is not just warm, it’s excruciatingly hot. The surface temperature reaches 872 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead. Venus is also a world of volcanoes, and the whole planet is wrapped in a thick atmosphere comprised mostly of carbon dioxide. This dense atmosphere insulates the planet, preventing heat from escaping and resulting in a runaway greenhouse effect. Venus is an intensely inhospitable place. So much for the rain forest theory!
When the age of space exploration began, Venus’ close proximity meant it became the very first target for interplanetary spacecraft. America’s Mariner 2 was the first successful probe, flying past Venus in 1962. The first successful landing did not come until 1970 when the Soviet Venera 7 spacecraft touched down. Due to the extreme conditions on the planet, it is highly unlikely that a manned landing on Venus will ever be attempted.
This month’s sky map shows Venus where it appears early on Thanksgiving morning, blazing near the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo the Virgin. The map is accurate any time during the last two weeks of November, so bundle up if necessary and enjoy Venus at its best!
In the words of Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” from 1959:
Hey, Venus! Oh, Venus!
Make my dreams come true!
November 2018 Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge this map (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Note: How to Read the Sky Map
Our sky map does not show the entire sky. Instead, the monthly map focuses on a particular region of the sky where something interesting is happening that month. The legend on the map always tells you which direction you should facing, based on midnight viewing. For example, if the map legend says “Looking Southeast,” you should face southeast when using the map.
The map is accurate for any location at a so-called “mid northern” latitude. That includes anywhere in the 48 U.S. states, southern Canada, central and southern Europe, central Asia, and Japan. If you are located substantially north of these areas, objects on our map will appear lower in your sky, and some objects near the horizon will not be visible at all. If you are substantially south of these areas, everything on our map will appear higher in your sky.
The items labeled in green on the sky map are known as asterisms. These are distinctive star patterns that lie within constellations. When getting your bearings under the stars, it’s often easiest to spot an asterism and use it as a guide to finding the parent constellation.
The numbers along the white “Your Horizon” curve at the bottom of the map are compass points, shown on degrees. As you turn your head from side to side, you will be looking in the compass direction indicated by those numbers. The horizon line is curved in order to preserve the geometry of objects in the sky. If we made the horizon line straight, the geometry of objects in the sky would be distorted.