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2020, October: Venus, Morning Star

Venus and Jupiter, August 18, 2012

2012, August 18: Brilliant Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky.

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Venus moves through Leo and into Virgo during October 2020. Watch the planet pass Regulus early in the month.

Brilliant Venus is “that bright star” in the eastern sky before sunrise during October 2020.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

The brilliant planet Venus continues stepping eastward among the stars of Leo and Virgo during October 2020.

Look eastward about one hour before sunrise.  It is less than one-third of the way up in the eastern sky.

Read our feature article about Venus as a Morning Star.

The chart above shows daily position of Venus compared to the starry background.

Venus and Mars are the bright morning planets for most of the month.  While Venus blazes in the eastern sky, Mars is in the western sky.  The gap between them grows larger during October, so that by month’s end, Venus is rising in the east as Mars is low in the west.  By early November, Mars sets before Venus rises, a Venus – Mars opposition, leaving the morning sky as Mercury makes its best morning appearance of the year.

Venus begins the month above the star Regulus, the brightest in Leo. The star is part of the informal shape that resembles a backwards question mark.  While informal, it is known as the “Sickle of Leo,” named for a farmer’s blade to cut ripened crops.

During the month, Venus appears to move away from Regulus and near dimmer stars in the constellation.

The m value indicates that the star is dim.  The lower the magnitude the brighter the star.  Like a golfer’s score the lower the score, the brighter the “star.”  The brightest stars are rated with magnitudes that are negative.  On this scale each step is a brightness difference of 2.5 times.  For example, Venus magnitude is −4.1, while Regulus rates 1.3. Venus is nearly 150 times brighter in the sky than Regulus.

Many stars have formal names and a smattering of catalog designations that include Greek letters or numbers. When the Greek letter or number of the star and the genitive name of the constellation are used, a star like Regulus is also known as Alpha Leonis (α Leo) to indicate that its Alpha in the constellation Leo. Additionally, with the Greek letter, the constellation is abbreviated, Leo (Leo), Virgo (Vir).

Read more about the planets during October.

2022, January 6: Mercury Nears Greatest Elongation

January 6, 2022:  Planet Mercury nears its evening greatest elongation.  It appears in the evening sky, with a crescent moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Venus sets soon after sundown.  Mars is in the southeast before sunup.

2022, January 5:  Jupiter – Evening Moon, Morning Mars

January 5, 2022: Jupiter and the crescent are 5.5° in the evening sky.  Look for Mercury and Saturn with the planet-moon duo.  Earlier, Venus is low in the west-southwest.  Before sunrise, Mars is near Antares.

2022, January 4: Earth at Perihelion

January 4, 2022:  Earth is at perihelion today – it’s closest point to the sun.  Mars is a morning planet, while the evening planet pack – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – and the crescent moon are in the southwest after sundown.

2022, January 3: Venus – Moon Conjunction

January 3, 2022:  The moon passes Venus for the final time of this evening appearance of Venus.  As night falls, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are visible in the southwest.  Mars is in the southeast before sunrise.

2021, December 30:  Sirius at Midnight

December 30, 2021:  As the year ends and the new one opens, the night sky’s brightest star – Sirius – is in the southern sky at the midnight hour.

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