Venus Shines Brightly

   What is that really bright star over the eastern horizon in the hours before sunrise? That is the inner planet planet Venus, and on Sunday April 30th Venus will reach a point in its orbit around the Sun where it appears at its greatest illumination. Shining at an apparent magnitude of around -4.53 Venus is bright enough to drown out most of the stars in the constellation of Pisces the Fishes that surround Venus.
   How Venus gets this bright is a result of its orbit around the Sun and its position relative to the light from the Sun and us on Earth. Venus is currently about as close to the Earth as it can come and because it is between us and the Sun Venus goes through phase changes like our Moon. Except we cannot see a full Venus because that is when Venus is at superior conjunction, on the opposite side of the Sun.
   Venus was recently at inferior conjunction and is now moving along its orbit toward the west away from the Sun. From inferior conjunction, for a while, Venus will appear as a large crescent shape but as days pass it moves further away, grows smaller in apparent size, and increases, waxing, toward a small gibbous phase before it moves behind the Sun and superior conjunction.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.

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