Let Venus Find You!

September 23, 2016
Let Venus Find You!
Brocken Inaglory, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus#/media

After the Moon, Venus is the brightest thing in the night sky.  Nothing else even comes close.  No wonder civilizations through the ages, like the Maya, worshiped it. 

But Venus is not always there.  Sometimes it’s behind the Sun.  Sometimes it’s very low in our sky, hidden in twilight behind hills. For nine months at a time it’s only visible in the pre-dawn as a gift for early risers and insomniacs. And nearly all this year, it’s been invisibly lurking behind the Sun.

When it finally does appear in the evening sky, its visibility depends on the slant of its orbit with the horizon. Sometimes its separation from the Sun is virtually horizontal so that at sunset Venus is not so much upward but mostly leftward from the sunset, which keeps it low above the horizon and makes it set soon after. And that’s the case right now.

It has begin its return as an Evening Star, but it’s low and left of the sunset when twilight is still pretty bright.

Only if you’re at a large mall parking lot or a riverside or farm field or someplace with a clear flat view of the southwest, can you see it making its return—any evening at all.

Ah, but things will change as the autumn comes, and then turns to winter. This January and February, Venus will be high and dazzling and everyone will see it each evening—because when it reaches its greatest height in mid-winter, it’s especially prominent, and that’s what will happen this time around.

We’re mentioning it now because sooner or later, some evening, quite by accident, you’ll spot a super bright star low down, soon after sunset, and it will catch your eye. And now you’ll know for sure what it is. Not a UFO—although Venus is responsible for 10% of all UFO reports. And not a star.

No, it will be the return of the Evening Star. And you will not have found it. Or, rather, it will find you.   

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s hub for everything 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