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2018: December 13: Morning Star Venus and Mercury

Bright Morning Star Venus and Mercury shine during twilight this morning in the southeastern sky.  The planet Venus is at its earliest rising time this morning for this appearance, rising shortly before 3:30 a.m. CST.  Mercury is displaying a very favorable morning appearance, although it nearly always appears during twilight.

More about Venus and Mercury

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2019, February 18: A Venus-Saturn Conjunction

In early February 2019, Venus continues to dominate the pre-sunrise sky.  Saturn emerges from its solar conjunction in January.  Venus passes 1.1° to the upper left of Saturn on the morning of February 18, less than 4 weeks after its Jupiter conjunction.  Here are the events leading up to the Saturn conjunction:

  • February 1: Saturn (m = 0.6) rises just before the beginning of twilight. At 45 minutes before sunrise, Venus (m = −4.3), 18° up in the southeast, is 18° to the upper right of Saturn, 7° up in the southeast.  Jupiter (m = −1.9) is nearly 10° to the upper right of Venus.  The waning crescent moon (26.5 days old, 10% illuminated) is about midway between Venus and Saturn. ( The magnitude, m, of a star is a numerical value assigned to its brightness.  The brightest stars have a magnitude of 1.  However, the planets and exceptionally bright stars, like Sirius, are brighter.  So in order to rank really bright celestial objects, the magnitudes become negative.  The sun is so bright (m=-26) it makes daytime on our planet!  So looking at the magnitudes here, Venus is brighter than Jupiter; Jupiter is brighter than Saturn.  Even when the moon displays a thin crescent it is brighter than Venus.)

  • February 2: The waning crescent moon (27.5 days old, 5% illuminated) is 3.1° to the lower left of Saturn. The Venus-Saturn gap is 16.7°.
  • The gap continues to close: Feb. 9, 9.3°; Feb. 10, 8.6°; Feb. 11, 7.3°; Feb. 12, 6.1°; Feb. 13, 5.1°; Feb. 14, 4°; Feb. 15, 3.3°; Feb. 16; 2.2°; Feb. 17, 1.5°.  As we look at the moon, it is about 0.5° across.  That’s about equal to the size of your pointer finger when you stretch out your arm.  Two full moon diameters is 1.0°.

  • Feb. 18, Conjunction morning!  The separation is 1.1°. Venus is to the upper left of Saturn.  The planets look close, but they are about 900 million miles apart.  Traveling at the speed of our fastest spacecraft (25,000 miles per hour), the distance between them could be traversed in over 4 years! After the conjunction the gap widens: 19, 1.4°; Feb. 20, 2.4°; Venus is to the left of Saturn.

A second Venus-Saturn conjunction occurs during Saturn’s 2019 apparition.  It occurs in the southwest in mid-December.

Here is our feature article about Venus and its 2018-2019 appearance:

Here is a summary of the next six Venus-Saturn conjunctions:

                                      Venus-Saturn Conjunctions, 2019-2025

Date Location Separation Description
December 10, 2019 Southwest after sunset. 1.8° Look for the pair in the southwest after sunset.    Venus is to the lower left of Saturn.
February 6, 2021 Southeast before sunrise. 0.5° This is a very difficult conjunction to see.  Venus is only 2° up 10 minutes before sunrise.
March 29, 2022 East-southeast before sunrise. 2.1° About an hour before sunrise, the pair is easy to see. Venus is to the upper left of Saturn.  Mars is nearby, 4.4° to the upper right of Saturn.  On the morning before the conjunction, the waning crescent moon joins the scene.
January 22, 2023 West-southwest after sunset. 0.3° The pair is 8° up one hour after sunset.  Venus is left of Saturn.  The waxing crescent moon is about 8° to the upper left of Venus on the evening before the conjunction
March 21, 2024 East before sunrise. 0.6° This is another difficult conjunction to view.  The pair is less than 5° up 10 minutes before sunrise.  Venus is to the upper right of Saturn.
January 20, 2025 Southwest after sunset. 2.2° This is an easily viewed conjunction.  Venus is to the upper left of Saturn.  The pair is over 20° up in the southwest 2 hours after sunset.

 

2018, December 9: Morning Star Venus and Mercury

Brilliant Venus shines in the southeast during twilight this morning. Mercury, low in the sky, joins this brighter inner planet. (Look for Mercury with binoculars to first locate it. Zoom in on the image to see the planet.) During the next several mornings, Mercury is brighter and higher in the sky. Jupiter joins the view later in the month.

For more about Venus, and Mercury and Jupiter’s morning dance, see the following articles:

2018, December 13: Morning Star Venus Reaches Earliest Rise Time

Venus’ rapid appearance in the morning occurred quickly after its inferior conjunction in late October.  On December 13, it has its earliest rise time (3:23 a.m. CST in Chicago). This earliest rise time is 48 days after its conjunction with the sun. On this morning, the Venus-Spica separation is13.8°.

Nearly a week later (December 19), the time interval between Venus rise and sunrise is greatest, 3 hours, 51 minutes, during this morning appearance. While the Venus rising time is still 3:23 a.m. CST (in Chicago), sunrise changes 4 minutes earlier in a week week. The gap between sunrise and Venus rising now decreases, on average, about 1 minute each morning until Venus rises at the beginning of twilight less than three months from this morning. Venus and Spica are 10.6° apart. This morning Venus is 4.3° above Zubenelgenubi (α Lib, m = 2.8). Through a telescope, Venus has a very thick morning crescent phase that is 40% illuminated. As it approaches its greatest elongation, watch the phase grow to the morning half phase during the next 18 mornings.

Our feature article about the morning appearance of Venus:

2018, December 7: Morning Star Venus Sparkles

After several mornings of cloudy skies, the brilliant Morning Star Venus sparkles in the southeastern sky this morning,   Venus is 10 degrees to the lower left of the star Spica.

Our feature article about the morning appearance of Venus:

2019, January 22: Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

The brilliant Morning Star Venus passes bright Jupiter on January 22, in the first of two conjunctions during 2019.  Venus passed its inferior conjunction in late October, followed by Jupiter’s solar conjunction in late November 2018.  During December, Jupiter had a conjunction with Mercury, during the speedy planet’s very favorable apparition.

Other articles for Venus and Jupiter:

This Venus-Jupiter conjunction (2.4°) is not a close (epoch) conjunction as those in recent years.  A second conjunction (1.5°) follows later in the year as Jupiter heads towards its solar conjunction and Venus returns to the western sky as an Evening Star.  The second conjunction is visible low in the southwest during evening twilight, with the pair setting about 90 minutes after sunset.

At the January conjunction, the planets are found in the southeastern sky during early morning twilight.  On January 15, Venus (m = −4.5) rises nearly 3.5 hours before the sun followed by Jupiter (m = −1.8) nearly 30 minutes later.  The gap between the planets is 6.8°.  The gap closes each morning as Venus overtakes Jupiter:  Jan. 16, 5.9°; Jan. 17, 5.3° (Venus-Antares conjunction, 7.8°); Jan. 18, 4.4°; Jan. 19, 3.8°.

This diagram shows the eastward motion of Venus and Jupiter compared to the starry background from January 20 through January 24. Venus passes closest to Jupiter on January 22, in a widely-spaced conjunction where the planets are 2.4° apart.

The chart above shows a time lapse view of Venus as it approaches and moves past Jupiter, with Antares in the star field.  The separations shown on the chart: Jan. 20, 3°; Jan. 21, 2.6°; Jan. 22, 2.4°; Jan. 23, 2.5°; Jan 24, 2.9°.

After the conjunction, Venus continues its eastward gallop among the stars toward Saturn (m = 0.5) for a close conjunction on February 18.  On January 24, the end of this described sequence, Venus is nearly 25° to the upper right of Saturn, just 2° up in the southeast.   (See the companion article for more about this conjunction.)

After the 2019 Venus-Jupiter conjunctions, a series of epoch conjunctions occurs beginning on 2021.  The table below outlines the circumstances of those conjunctions.

Venus-Jupiter Conjunctions, 2021-2024

Date Separation When Description
February 11, 2021 26’ Morning This pairing is very difficult to see in the eastern sky as the planets rise in bright twilight just 25 minutes before sunrise.
April 30, 2022 29’ Morning The planets rise in the eastern sky about 90 minutes before sunrise.  In separation, this rivals the gap of the June 2015 conjunction, although it is lower in the sky.
March 1, 2023 32’ Evening This conjunction rivals the June 2015 pairing, with the planets high in the west after sunset, setting 2 hours, 30 minutes after the sun.
May 23, 2024 15’ Morning This pairing is impossible for casual observers to see as it occurs when the planets are nearly behind the sun hidden in the solar glare.

2018: Morning Star Venus and Moon During Early December Mornings

Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines in the southeastern sky in early December.  Look for a photogenic grouping of  Venus, Spica, and the Moon early in the month:  Here’s what to look for:

  • December 2: One hour before sunrise, the waning crescent moon is 13° above Spica. The Venus-Spica gap is 6.8°.  Mercury, is 7° up in the southeast, 30 minutes before sunrise.

  • December 3: One hour before sunrise, there is a spectacular grouping of the waning crescent moon Venus, and Spica.  They make a triangle, with the moon at the upper left corner.  The moon is 5° above Venus and 7° to the left of Spica. Venus is 7.4° to the lower left of the star.

  • December 4: One hour before sunrise the waning crescent moon (26.8d, 8%) is 9° to the lower left of Venus.  The Venus-Spica gap is nearly 8°.  The trio (Venus, Moon, and Spica) is nearly in a line.

Our feature article about the morning appearance of Venus: