Sparkling Venus shines from the morning eastern sky during August 2020.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
The brilliant planet Venus shines from the eastern sky during the pre-sunrise hours of August mornings.
The planet is near the Southern Horn of Taurus, Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau), as the month begins.
During eight mornings, the planet moves across the arm and club of Orion, then into Gemini. Use a binocular to track the planet among the Hunter’s dimmer stars. Then Venus moves into Gemini.
Since mid-June, four planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – have put on a scintillating morning planet parade. Venus moves rapidly eastward as Jupiter continues to retrograde. On August 1, the Venus – Jupiter gap is 154°. Earth is moving away from Jupiter as Venus moves away from our home planet. This gap continues to widen during August. By mid-month the gap is about 170°. Seeing all four planets together in the sky becomes more difficult without unobstructed, cloud free horizons. On August 25, Earth passes between Venus and Jupiter. This is known as a Venus – Jupiter opposition. It’s not an observable event, except that these four planets are no longer together in the sky. Earth passes between Venus and Saturn during early September.
Here are the highlights for Venus:
(It is important to note that Gemini has many bright stars. Several are highlighted in the following list. Because of the large number in this part of the sky, choose your favorite stars in the region and watch Venus move compared to that starry background.
Venus during August 2020
For those without star charts, the diagram at the top of this article identifies the stars by their astronomical alphabet soup of Greek letters and some proper names. In the notes that follow, the “m” designations are numerical values for star brightness. Like a golf score, the lower values indicate brighter stars. A star of magnitude 1 is 100 times brighter than one of magnitude 6.
- August 1 – Venus (V) is 2.1° to the lower right of Zeta Tauri (ζ Tau, m = 3.0).
- August 6 – V passes 0.5° to the lower right of Chi1 Orionis (χ1 Ori, m = 4.4).
- August 9 – Early in twilight use a binocular to see V 4.5° to the lower right of Messier 35, a star cluster in Gemini. Lower and more difficult to see. This is certainly a stretch, but give it a try. V passes 0.5° below Chi2 Orionis (χ2 Ori, m = 4.6).
- August 11 – V passes 2.5° to the lower right of Eta Geminorum (η Gem, m = 3.3).
- August 13 – V is 2.4° to the lower right of Mu Geminorum (μ Gem, m = 2.8).
- August 15 – The waning crescent moon (25.6 days past New, 16% illuminated) is 3.5° to the upper left of V. V is 0.2° below Nu Geminorum (ν Gem, m = 4.1).
- August 17 – V is nearly between Gamma Geminorum (γ Gem, m = 1.9) and Epsilon Geminorum (ε Gem, m = 3.0). Venus passes 3.7° to the upper left of γ Gem.
- August 18 – V is 5.0° to the lower right of ε Gem.
- August 20 – This morning the planet appears between Castor (α Gem, m =1.6) and γ Gem. The separations are: V – Castor, 15.2° and V – γ Gem, 4.9°.
- August 21 – V passes between Pollux (β Gem, m = 1.2) and γ Gem. The brilliant planet is 5.6° to the lower left of γ Gem and nearly 14° to the upper right of Pollux.
- August 23 – V is 0.5° to the lower right of Zeta Geminorum (ζ Gem, m = 4.0).
- August 25 – V and Jupiter are in opposition.
- August 26 – V is 2.2° to the lower right of Delta Geminorum (δ Gem, m = 3.5) and 3.1° to the lower left of ζ Gem. Look carefully with a binocular. Venus is to the right of a line that connects δ Gem and Lambda Geminorum (λ Gem, m = 3.6).
- August 27 – V is to the left of a line that connects δ Gem and λ Gem. V is 2.2° to the lower right of δ Gem and 3.4° to the upper left of λ Gem.
- August 28 – V is at its maximum rising time interval before sunrise, 222 minutes, as seen from Chicago, Illinois, and other similar latitudes.
- August 31 – V passes 8.6° to the lower right of Pollux. The brilliant planet is above a line that starts at Pollux and extends through Kappa Geminorum (κ Gem, m = 3.6) and extends to Procyon (α Cmi, m = 0.4) . The dimmer star is 3.6° to the lower right of Pollux.
For more about the planets this morning, this article provides a semi-technical description of the planetary activity during August.
November 3, 2021: Before sunrise speedy planet Mercury, the crescent moon, and the star Spica are grouped together. The trio does not appear this close together again until 2033.
October 31, 2021: There is no Halloween Full moon this year, and the phase is not close. The crescent moon is in the morning sky. Mercury is low in the east-southeast before sunrise. The planet pack – Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter – gleam in the evening sky.
October 29, 2021: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun. It is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon and Mercury are in the eastern sky before sunrise.
October 29 – November 1, 2021: The crescent moon moves in front of the stars of Leo in the eastern sky before sunrise. Watch the moon appear lower and the phase shrink (wane) each morning. Also note that there is no Full moon on Halloween this year!
October 26, 27, and 28, 2021: During the early morning hours, the bright gibbous moon appears in front of Gemini’s stars.