Dazzling Venus is getting even brighter in February! And “dazzling” is no exaggeration. The evening star will reach its greatest brilliance on February 16–17.
Here are highlights of some serious in-your-face performances unfolding right now.
Venus in the Sky for February 2017
On Tuesday, January 31, at nightfall, look for the crescent Moon to form a gorgeous triangle with brilliant Venus and fainter, orange Mars. Simply look westward, you can’t miss it.
The next night, Wednesday, February 1, those three bodies align to make a straight line.
As the first week of February ends, the Moon moves away and little orange Mars hovers at its closest to dazzling Venus. And dazzling is no exaggeration.
Venus shines at its very brightest starting February 6, and maintains this dazzle all month.
After the Full Moon on the night of the 10th, the Moon soon vanishes, leaving Venus with no competition to dominate the first half of each night.
Venus Reaches Greatest Brilliance on February 16–17
Venus will be shining at its brightest and best in the evening sky for a few days around February 16 to 17.
On the night of February 16 into the week hours of the 17th, Venus reaches its greatest illuminated extent as the evening “star,” marking its greatest brilliancy in the night sky.
This means that Venus’s illuminated side (what we see) covers more square area of Earth’s sky than at any other time of the year. So, Venus is brighter now than at any other time during its current 9.6-month reign in the evening sky.
Planet Mars remains near Venus in the west after sunset.
Look towards the western skies any time after sunset to see Venus. The peak of its brilliance will be around 2 A.M.EST, 1 A.M.CST, 12 Midnight MST, and 11 P.M.PST (on February 16).
Interestingly, if you looked through a telescope, you would see that Venus is only at crescent stage, not a fully-illuminated disk, but this is the time when it’s closest to Earth.
Shadows of Venus
Fact of Fiction? Venus can be bright enough to cast shadows.
It’s rare but with Venus reaching peak brightness on February 16–17, there’s no better time to attempt to see this elusive thing.
The other requirement is very dark skies in the countryside, far from artificial lights.
Those shadows are strangely sharp-edged. And although dim, they’re not truly hard to see on a white surface like snow.
Or, hold your hand in front of a white piece of paper (with your back to Venus) and see if you can spot a faint shadow by the light of another planet.
Let us know if you see your shadow by Venus light!