Month: November 2013

Venus as a Morning Star, 2014

This appearance of Venus concluded October 15, 2014, when it passed superior conjunction and moved into the evening sky.

As in 2012, Venus is a brilliant Morning Star for most of 2014.

Venus makes an appearance in the morning sky, displaying its gleaming “Morning Star” brilliancy throughout most of 2014.  Venus enters the eastern morning sky in late January 2014 after passing between Earth and Sun (inferior conjunction).  (Click all images to see them larger.)


At inferior conjunction on January 11, 2014, Venus is a scant 24.8 million miles from our planet; that’s about 100 times the distance to the moon.  Even though the three celestial bodies are aligned, the alignment is not perfect, as Venus is about 5 degrees north of the sun, rising 30 minutes before the sun at the conjunction.  (See the chart below showing the difference between sunrise and Venus rise.)

Times are on the diagrams to show the times of noon and midnight.  Additionally the morning side of the sky is distinguished from the evening planets.  These times are referenced from our planet.  Notice that we never see Venus in the midnight sky.  (The midnight arrow never points at or goes through Venus.)


Venus at its greatest brilliancy, February 15, 2014.

Within a month as it rapidly moves higher in the eastern morning sky, Venus reaches its greatest brightness outshining all other starlike celestial objects on February 15.


Venus at greatest elongation West — March 22, 2014

In late March, Venus reaches its greatest angular separation from the sun, known as greatest elongation west.  It is west of the sun, rising about 2 hours before the sun in the eastern sky.  When facing the eastern predawn sky, Venus appears to the right of the growing daylight; that’s west of the sun, yet it appears in the eastern sky.  Similar seemingly word trickery is used when Venus is an Evening Star.


The first image captured during Venus’ 2014 morning appearance as seen from the Chicago area.

Venus continues to shine in the eastern sky.  The moon passes it 9 times. Venus passes several brighter stars and Jupiter.  Venus rapidly moves from Earth, dimming, yet incredibly brilliant.


By early autumn it rises during bright twilight disappearing behind the sun for superior conjunction on October 25.


The chart above shows the difference between the rising times of the sun and Venus from data from the U.S. Naval Observatory.  As noted above, even at conjunction Venus rises 30 minutes before the sun as it is north of the sun at this time.  Notice how rapidly Venus moves into the evening sky as it reaches its greatest brightness.  From its first appearance in late January to late April is rises before twilight begins.  For the rest of its appearance it rises during twilight.  Beginning in August, it rapidly moves toward the sun as it nears its superior conjunction.


This chart shows the rising point of Venus compared to the sunrise direction.  Notice that Venus rises north of the sunrise point from its inferior conjunction until February 9.  Until July 14, Venus rises south (to the right along the eastern horizon) from where the sun rises.  After mid-July Venus again rises north (left along the eastern horizon) from where the sun rises until superior conjunction.  (Data on the chart from the U.S. Naval Observatory.)

During the 2014 morning apparition, Venus appears in a part of the sky that has mainly faint stars.  Below are some notable events of Venus as a Morning Star in 2014.

Appearances With Crescent Moon

  • January 28, 29
Venus and the moon as seen on January 28, 2014 at 6:45 a.m. EST from Fairfield County, Ohio.
Venus appears in the southeast at 6:30 a.m. CST with the waning crescent moon nearby.
  • February 26
Venus shines during late twilight on February 25, 2014.
Venus and the Moon, February 26, 2014, separated by 4.3 degrees.
  • March 27
  • April 25
  • May 25
  • June 24
  • July 24
Venus and the Moon on the morning of July 24, 2014.
Venus and the Moon on the morning of July 24, 2014.
  • August 23
  • September 23 (in bright twilight)

Appearances with Stars and Planets

  • Mercury (19 degrees to lower left of Venus), March 14
  • Aldebaran, July 1
  • Mercury (7 degrees to the lower left of Venus), July 12
  • Zeta Tauri, July 14
  • Pollux, August 7
  • Lined with Castor and Pollux, August 11
  • Jupiter and Beehive star cluster, August 18
  • Regulus, September 5

Please bookmark this page and return to it throughout the apparition as we chronicle Venus as a Morning Star with photos of the events.


December 2013 Skywatching

The Sun

The sun reaches the winter solstice at 11:11 a.m. CST on December 21.  At this time it makes its lowest arc across the sky as it reaches its southern most rising and setting points.  It is in the sky 9 hours, 9 minutes in the Chicago area reaching an altitude of 25 degrees above the southern horizon at noon.

The Moon

New Moon — 12/03
First Quarter — 12/09
Full Moon — 12/17
Last Quarter — 12/25

Comet ISON

At the time of this writing Comet ISON is a characteristically dim comet visible only with the aid of a binocular or small telescope.  Should it grow to naked eye visibility, updates will occur in future postings.

Evening Sky

Venus sparkles in the southwest after sunset.  It is the brightest starlike object in the sky.  After it reaches its greatest brightness during this evening appearance on December 6, it rapidly closes in on the sun.  By month’s end, it disappears into the sun’s brilliance before it moves between the Earth and Sun (inferior conjunction) on January 11, 2014 moving into the morning sky.

Through a small telescope or binocular, if held steady, Venus appears as a crescent, resembling the moon.  As the month progresses, Venus appears larger and thinner.


On December 5, the waxing crescent moon appears about 7 degrees to the upper right of Venus.

Jupiter appears low in the eastern sky as Venus sets in the west.  It appears in front of the stars of Gemini (Castor and Pollux).  At mid-month, Jupiter rises in the East-northeast at 6 p.m.


On the evening of December 18, the moon appears about 5 degrees to the lower right of the moon.

Morning Sky

During the night Jupiter appears to move westward as great celestial sphere seems to rotate.


By the morning of December 19, Jupiter, the moon and Gemini appear in the western sky as shown in the chart above.


Early in the month, Saturn appears with the crescent moon during morning twilight.  The stars Zubeneschamali and Zubenelgenubi, the brighter stars of dim Libra appear nearby.  The names are translated as the “Northern Claw” and the “Southern Claw,” respectively, to show their former association with the constellation Scorpius.

Near month’s end, the moon returns to the same region of the sky.


On the mornings of December 28 and 29, the moon passes the two “claw stars” and Saturn.  On December 28, the moon is 7 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.  The next morning the moon is the same distance to the lower left of Saturn.

Meanwhile, Mars races across the sky from the region near Denebola (Leo) toward Spica (Virgo).  Currently, its brightness is unremarkable, but it is easy to locate and watch as it moves eastward.


This chart shows the relative position of Spica, Mars, and Denebola on December 1st.  On this date Mars is 27 degrees to the upper right of Spica.


On December 25 and 26, the moon passes through the region to make the identification of Mars easier.  On the 26th, Mars is 15 degrees to the upper right of Spica.  From the first of the month, it’s moved 12 degrees eastward, that equal to about 24 full moon diameters.  This movement is what distinguishes the worlds of our solar system from the seemingly consistent pattern of the stars.

The Solar System


The chart above shows the planets on December 15, 2013 as if seen from above the solar system.  With Mercury nearly behind the sun and Venus near Earth and in the evening sky, the other planets are on the morning side of Earth.  Venus is the planet that gets closest to Earth.  Because of the planet’s proximity and its clouds’ high reflectivity, Venus shines brightly in our evening sky.

Mars, Moon, and Jupiter This Morning, November 27, 2013


The waning crescent moon and Mars shine from the eastern sky this morning as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the image to see it larger.)  During the month Mars has moved through the constellation Leo (with Denebola and Regulus) and into Virgo.  This morning Mars and the moon are about 6 degrees apart.

Meanwhile, bright Jupiter shines from the western sky among the stars of Gemini.  In this view, the star Procyon (Canis Minor) is nearby.  Jupiter and Mars are nearly 65 degrees apart.

Read more about the planets this month.

Venus This Evening, November 23, 2013


Brilliant Venus sparkles in the south-southwestern sky after sunset this evening. (Click the image to see it larger.)  Venus continues to grow in brightness through early December.  It is now setting about 2 hours, 30 minutes after the sun.  After its latest setting time in early December, Venus rapidly closes in on the sun as it passes between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction) on January 11, 2014.

Read more about the planets this month.

Read more about Venus as an Evening Star.

Venus This Evening, November 19, 2013


Brilliant Venus shines in the south-southwest this evening during twilight. (Click the image to see it larger.)  It is about three weeks past its largest apparent separation from the sun during this evening appearance. It continues to grow in brightness for the next few weeks.  The only two celestial sights that are regularly brighter than Venus are the sun and the moon.

Read more about the planets this month.

Read more about Venus as an Evening Star.

Jupiter and Mars This Morning, November 14, 2013

DSC00161 Bright Jupiter shines in the western sky from the stars of Gemini, with Castor and Pollux nearby, this morning as seen from the Chicago area. (Click the images to see them larger.)  The planet is slowly moving eastward compared to the starry background.


Meanwhile in the eastern sky, Mars moves rapidly eastward in front of the stars of Leo with Regulus and Denebola in view.  The two planets are nearly 60 degrees apart.

Read more about the planets this month.

Digital Learning is About Flipping the Teacher


Image Credit

Much has been written about Jon Bergmann’s movement around flipping the classroom.  Digital learning is more about flipping the teacher.  As illustrated above, traditional education is centered around the expert delivering information to a large group.  In this setting, the teacher speaks to large groups up to 80-90% of the time and less than 20% of the time working with small groups.  In digital settings, the teacher becomes small group focused, working with individuals  and small groups 80-90% of the time and in large group settings for the balance.  This is more than being a “guide on the side.”  The digital teacher provides detailed focused instruction to help students with basics, for clarity, and for extension of the fundamental learning.  The teacher’s role becomes flipped.   So the forecasts and calls for competency based instruction and personalized learning need to focus on flipping the instructional perspectives and roles of the teachers.  This is more than flipping any classroom; it is flipping the teacher.