Venus at its Brightest

   Have you noticed that bright shining ‘star’ in the morning skies? At this time of the year you could be thinking I am referring to Sirius, the brightest night time star. While Sirius, no kidding, has an apparent magnitude of -1.4 it is out shined by the inner planet Venus now rising about 2-3 hours before sunrise local time. Venus currently has an apparent magnitude of -4.54 and coincidentally Venus is at its greatest brilliance.

Venus monthly: January-December 2015

Venus monthly: January-December 2015

   This is not the first time that Venus has been at its greatest brightness as this point in Venus’s orbit occurs as a function of the planet’s orbital position relative to the Earth and the Sun. Venus increases in its apparent size as it moves from superior conjunction, behind the Sun through eastern elongation to inferior conjunction. During this time Venus goes through phase changes starting with a waning gibbous phase following superior conjunction to a new phase at inferior conjunction. At this point Venus is at its greatest apparent size however we will not see Venus until it moves away from inferior conjunction. As Venus moves toward western elongation and then to superior conjunction its apparent size decreases while it goes from a large crescent shape to a smaller waxing gibbous phase.
   Venus was at inferior conjunction this past August 15th so it was last at its greatest brightest on July 12th when it was a large but thin waning crescent shape. Now Venus is moving past inferior conjunction and is at a orbital position similar to the one it had in July making Venus appear at its greatest brightness.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Mars-Moon-Venus Together

   This morning, Wednesday, you may have noticed a thin crescent Moon up to the right (west) from a very bright star-like object. That is the planet Venus shining with an apparent Magnitude of -4.49. What you may not have noticed is a reddish star off to the left (east) from Venus. That is the planet Mars, ‘shining’ with an apparent magnitude of 1.78.
   On Thursday morning September 10th watch for the even thinner, and 1-day older, waning crescent Moon to have moved eastward to the east side of Venus where it is in between Venus and Mars. This should make for an interesting picture, or at the least a striking view through binoculars. And as this graphic shows, at around 6:15 pm local time the planet Jupiter appears at the horizon as it rises into the morning skies. Jupiter, for comparison, shines with an apparent magnitude of -1.7.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus at Inferior Conjunction

inner-planets-positions   Saturday August 15th the innermost planet Venus reaches its orbital position known as inferior conjunction. This is one of four points along an inner planet orbit, and at inferior conjunction Venus is between the Earth and the Sun – like our new Moon phase.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus Might Get Stung!

   Thursday evening June 12th the inner planet Venus will be within less than 1o from the open star cluster M-44, or the Beehive Cluster. This is one of the closest of the open star clusters at a distance of about 500-600 light years. It contains approximately 1000 stars with a combined apparent magnitude of 3.7 meaning that it is a naked-eye visible object and certainly visible with optical aids.

   A few degrees east from the Beehive Cluster is another open star cluster, M-67. This is a collection of approximately 500 stars at a distance of between 2500-3000 light years, shining with a combined apparent magnitude of around 6. At that apparent magnitude this open star cluster could be seen with the naked-eye under dark skies and certainly with visible optical aids.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Moon Says, “I’m Your Venus.”

   Sunday March 22nd the waxing crescent Moon will be within about 3o from the inner planet Venus. Both will easily fit within the field of view of binoculars, and both will offer an interesting contrast in apparent magnitudes. Venus shines at a -4.0 while the 2.6-day old crescent Moon has an apparent magnitude of -10.0.

   
   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

A Venus – Neptune Conjunction


   Sunday evening, February 1st the inner planet Venus will be within about 1o from the outermost of the 8 planets, Neptune. The two will be an interesting contrast in apparent magnitudes with Venus shining at -3.93 compared with Neptune’s +7.96 apparent magnitude.
   Both of these objects are close enough to easily fit within the field of view of binoculars, and is close enough to fit within the field of view of a 25mm eyepiece on a 6″ reflecting telescope.

   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Venus is Superior During Moon and Saturn Conjunction

25oct-bino   Saturday evening, October 25th the thin 2 day old waxing crescent Moon will be about 2o from the planet Saturn as they both set over the western horizon. The two should make for interesting contrast in both pictures and through binoculars. With binoculars you have a view of the sky that at this time of the evening will show you more than your eyes would be able to see.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   As this graphic shows the reddish stars of Arcturus and Antares are on either side of the Moon and Saturn. Further to the east and just above the pour spout of teapot-shaped asterism using stars from the constellation Sagittarius is the planet Mars. Through binoculars it may be possible to find some of the nebula and star clusters along the Milky Way above and around Mars.

25sep-venus-sup_conjunc    Also on Saturday the inner planet Venus will have moved into superior conjunction – on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth. Venus will reappear on the east side of the Sun later next month and start becoming visible in the evening skies over the western horizon.

   
   
   
[centup]
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.