Venus in Taurus: A Spectacular Pleiades Conjunction
For more about Venus as an Evening Star, visit this page.
In late March, Venus moves into Taurus, heading for a conjunction with the Pleiades. During April, Venus moves between the Pleiades and Hyades, and toward Elnath, the Bull’s northern horn.
Brilliant Venus is easy to spot and easily mistaken for a bright light on an airplane. The Pleaides cluster is in the shape of a tiny dipper. Its stars are not bright, but easily seen. Many times they initially draw your attention from the edge of your vision.
Step outside and look into the western sky about an hour after sunset. (Check your local sources for sunset in your location.) As the sky darkens further, the Pleiades are easier to locate.
A binocular highlights the view of the cluster and the nearby checkmark-shaped Hyades. With the yellow-orange star Aldebaran, the Hyades cluster makes a V-shape, although the Aldebaran is not part of the cluster.
Through the binocular, you should be able to count a dozen stars in the Pleiades cluster. A telescope’s view is too narrow to catch the full cluster.
The chart above shows the motion of Venus as it moves near the star cluster. Here’s what to look for:
- March 30: Venus moves into Taurus, 3.6° to the lower right of Alcyone (Eta Tauri on the chart), the brightest star in the Pleiades cluster.
- March 31: At the end of evening twilight (about 90 minutes after sunset), Venus, over 25° up in the west, is 2.7° to the lower right of Alcyone. Watch Venus close the gap to Alcyone during the next several evenings.
- April 3: One hour after sunset, Venus, 30° up in the west, is 0.3° to the lower left of Alcyone. This is the best night. While Venus and the cluster appear close together, Venus is relatively nearby in our solar system, while the cluster is nearly 400 light years away!
- April 4: This evening and for the next few evenings Venus and Sirius are at nearly the same altitude in the west at about 9 p.m. CDT in Chicago, a few minutes after the end of evening twilight (about 105 minutes after sunset). While Venus and Sirius are too far apart for technical comparisons of their brightness difference, the brightest star and the brightest planet are the same altitude in the western sky. Sirius, Orion’s belt, Aldebaran, and Venus are nearly in a line across the western horizon. The Venus – Alcyone gap, 0.9°. Gaps as Venus moves eastward along the ecliptic and away from the Pleiades: April 5, 1.8°; April 6, 2.7°; April 7, 3.5°; April 8, 4.6°; April 9, 5.2°.
Continue to watch Venus move through Taurus during the next several days.