March 26, 2021: Venus reaches its superior conjunction today. The sun is between Earth and the planet.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Venus reaches its superior conjunction and begins a slow climb into the evening sky. Its first evening appearance does not occur until about April 19 when it sets at about Civil Twilight. This occurs when the sun is 6° below the horizon. During mid-April this occurs about 30 minutes after sunset.
See 2021, Venus as an Evening Star
The planet moves higher into the western evening sky through the rest of the year. It has a conjunction with Mars during the summer.
Near year’s end it is in a dashing grouping with the crescent moon. Venus – near its maximum brilliance – stands above a razor-thin moon on December 6.
Venus and Mercury revolve around the sun faster than Earth. Imagine a nearly circular track where the runners stay in their lanes and the runners on the inner lanes run faster than those on the outside lanes. Eventually, the runners in the inside lap those farther out.
Earth laps the planets farther from the sun and Mercury and Venus laps our planet. Venus was visible in the morning during the summer and autumn. It moved away and into the sun’s glare on the far side of its orbital path. This month it moves so that the sun is between Earth and Venus (superior conjunction).
With Venus’ faster speed, it eventually catches us and passes between Earth and the sun (inferior conjunction).
Venus now begins an evening appearance that ends early next year.
Happy Venus superior conjunction day!
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In the meantime, you can watch Venus passing through the glare of the Sun. https://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/data/realtime-images.html Mercury will join Venus in April. Look for Venus and Mercury in the SOHO C3 camera, to the left and right of the Sun, around April 14th. Mercury catches up to Venus on the 16th.
Mercury is at superior conjunction on April 18. Mercury passes Venus on April 25. Both are very low in the west-northwest at 20 minutes after sunset. From equations by Jean Meeus, Venus should be visible. Mercury is at magnitude -1.6 and might be visible to the unaided eye, although a cloud-free horizon and exceptional weather conditions are needed. On this evening Mercury is 1.2 degrees to the upper right of Venus.