2018, November 10: Morning Star Venus Sparkles Before Sunrise

November 10, 2018: Venus approaches Spica. This morning they are 2 degrees apart.

Brilliant Morning Star Venus shines this morning from the pre-sunrise sky in the southeast.  The planet is 2 degrees to the lower left of the star Spica.  During the next four mornings watch Venus close in on the star.  A binocular helps with the location of Spica.

More about Venus in the morning sky:

Advertisements

2018-2019: Jupiter Dances with the Snake Handler

Jupiter during its 2017-2018 apparition

During its 2018-2019 apparition, Jupiter appears among the southern stars of Ophiuchus, the Snake Handler.  Just one apparition before its Great Conjunction with Saturn, Jupiter has two conjunctions with Venus.  Jupiter moves through southern Ophiuchus in front of dimmer stars  Its passage is worth noting in a dark sky or with binoculars.

The positions of Jupiter, sun and Earth at Jupiter’s conjunction on November 26, 2018.

Jupiter passes behind the sun early in the morning on November 26, 2018.  At this solar conjunction, Jupiter is not visible as it is hiding in the sun’s glare.   The chart above shows the position of Jupiter, sun and Earth at Jupiter’s conjunction.  From Earth, Jupiter is “behind” the sun.

Jupiter appears in front of the stars of Ophiuchus, the Snake Handler, during its 2018-2019 appearance.
(Artwork from Starry Night Pro)

The chart above shows the position of Jupiter in June 2019 compared to the background stars.  The sun, moon, and planets appear to move in front of a seemingly fixed background of stars we call the constellations.  They make familiar patterns.  The 88 constellations are also made of bright and dim stars outside those figures.  Constellation boundaries are irregularly-shaped patches of sky resembling a jumbled quilt or counties in a state.

To some, Ophiuchus is the “newly discovered 13th sign of the zodiac.”  This announcement is made every few years, but the constellation has existed since constellations were invented to track the skies of our ancestors.  There’s nothing new here.  The sun appears to move in front of Ophiuchus from about November 30 through December 17, 17 days compared to the 6 days it’s in front of the stars of Scorpius.  For most of its appearance during the next year, Jupiter shines from in front of stars of Ophiuchus’ feet.

This chart shows the relative motion of Jupiter compared to the background stars of Ophiuchus (Oph)
from December 24, 2018 through November 24, 2019.  Jupiter has two conjunctions with Venus
during this apparition. Greek letters are used to name the dimmer stars in the sky.

The planets appear to move eastward as they revolve around the sun.  They rise in the east and set in west each day as our planet rotates.  Jupiter moves slowly eastward compared to the distant stars, taking nearly 12 years to through all the constellations.  As our planet, moving 12 times faster, catches Jupiter nearly every year, Jupiter seems to stop moving eastward (April 10, 2019) and seems to move backwards or retrograde.  This is an optical illusion.  As it retrogrades, our planet passes between Jupiter and the sun (opposition, June 10, 2019).  After we pass by, Jupiter seems to stop retrograding (August 11, 2019) and appears to resume its forward or direct motion.  The illusion of the retrograde motion was one of the early challenges to explain.  If the earth were stationary, then must be a series of hoops that carried the planets.  The secondary hoops moved backwards at regular intervals, depending on the planet.  When it was clearly demonstrated that the earth moves (not an easy feat that was only demonstrated after the development of larger telescopes). the retrograde pattern was easily explained by a faster moving inner planet moving past a slower moving outer planet.

This chart shows the rising time of Jupiter and other bright celestial objects from Jupiter’s conjunction
until it rises 5 hours before sunrise.  Conjunctions with Mercury, Antares, and Venus are shown with
boxes.  The rising of the moon is shown with circles.  When the lines of two objects cross, they rise at the
same time.  Conjunctions can occur a few days before or after the intersection of the lines.  Chart
made from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

Slowly after conjunction, the planet begins to climb into the morning southeastern sky.  By December 3, it rises about 30 minutes before sunrise. Locate it in bright twilight with a binocular.  Watch it appear higher in the sky each morning at the same time.  Ten days later it rises about an hour before sunrise.  Thirty minutes before sunrise, it is only 5° up in the east-southeastern sky,  Near the middle of December, Jupiter rises at Nautical Twilight, about 65 minutes before sunrise.  At this time, the horizon is barely distinguishable.  Historically, this was important for sailors to be able to make celestial measurements for navigation that references the natural horizon with at sea.

Jupiter, Mercury, and Antares

As Jupiter emerges into the morning sky from its solar conjunction, it is grouped with Mercury and Antares.  Mercury passes Jupiter on December 21.  Brilliant Venus is far to the upper right of the grouping; it closes the gap early during Jupiter’s apparition.  Here are the details of the grouping.

This chart shows a time-lapse of 5 mornings, 45 minutes before sunrise, during late December.  Look
into the southeastern sky.  A binocular helps locate the dimmer stars.

  • December 19: Jupiter is 0.8° to upper right of Omega Ophiuchi (ω Oph) and 5.3° to the upper left of Antares, although the star is only 3° in altitude. Use a binocular to find it.  Bright Mercury is 2.5° to the upper right of Jupiter and 1° to the upper right of Psi Ophiuchi (ψ Oph).
  • December 20: At 45 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter is nearly 7° up in the southeast. The planet is 5.2° to the upper left of Antares.  Mercury is 1.6° to Jupiter’s upper right.

  • December 21: Jupiter and Mercury are 0.9° apart this morning. Jupiter is 0.6° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi. Mercury, Jupiter, and Antares are nearly in a line spanning 6.1°. Today marks two years until the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, when they appear 0.1° apart!
  • December 22: At 45 minutes before sunrise, Mercury is 1.2° to the left of Jupiter. Jupiter is 25.2° to the lower left of brilliant Venus this morning.  Watch Venus close the gap during the next month

 

.

  • December 23: Jupiter rises over 100 minutes before sunrise, at the beginning of twilight.  This morning, Jupiter passes 5.2° above Antares.  The Giant Planet appears 0.2° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi. Use a binocular or a small aperture telescope to resolve the pair.  The Jupiter-Mercury gap has grown to 2°.  Mercury is to the lower left of Jupiter.

By year’s end Jupiter rises over 2 hours before sunrise.  It is well off the southeastern horizon as twilight progresses.

Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

Early in the new year, Jupiter rises into the sky before twilight begins. Brilliant Venus and Jupiter approach a morning conjunction.  Venus rapidly moves eastward among the stars, about a degree a day compared to Jupiter.  They are heading for a widely-spaced conjunction on January 22. Watch the Venus-Jupiter gap close:  January 5, 15°; January 11, 10.1°; January 17, 5.1°.

  • January 1, 2019: At the beginning of the new year, look for a wide grouping of the crescent moon, two planets, and a bright star. At 45 minutes before sunrise, the waning crescent moon is 29° up in the south-southeast, slightly below a virtual line that connects Zubenelgenubi (α Lib) and Zubeneschamali (β Lib).  Venus is 4.7° to the lower left of the moon.  Jupiter, 11° up in the southeast, is 18° to the lower left of Venus.  Antares is 5.5° to the lower right of Jupiter.

 

  • January 22: At mid-twilight, 40 minutes before sunrise, the Venus-Jupiter pair appears 22° up in the southeast. Venus is 2.4° to the upper left of Jupiter in this widely-space conjunction. Watch Venus move away from Jupiter on the mornings that follow.

By the end of January, the Venus-Jupiter gap is nearly 8° .  Jupiter rises nearly 3 hours, 30 minutes before the sun.  At an hour before sunrise, Jupiter is 19°  up in the southeast.

Jupiter at Morning Quadrature

The positions of Jupiter, sun and Earth when Jupiter is 90° from the sun on March 13, 2019.

During March, Jupiter continues to rise earlier.  On March 1, it rises just after 2 a.m. local time.  On March 13, Jupiter around 2:30 a.m. CDT.   This morning it is 90° west of the sun.  As twilight begins, this Giant Planet is 25°  up in the south.  The planet continues to rise earlier and appear farther west during morning twilight.

On April 10 Jupiter begins to retrograde.  It is 15° to the upper left of Antares.  During the next six weeks, with a binocular, watch Jupiter move through the dim star field of southern Ophiuchus.  By April 19, the planet is rising before midnight, continuing to rise earlier each evening.  The time of its rising is very noticeable each week.  Our planet is catching Jupiter.

Jupiter at Opposition

The positions of the sun, Earth and Jupiter when Jupiter is at opposition, June 10, 2018.

On June 10, Earth passes between Jupiter and the sun.  Jupiter is nearly 400 million miles away. The sun and Jupiter are in opposite directions in the sky.  When the sun sets, Jupiter rises in the southeast.  It is south around midnight, setting in the southwest at sunrise.  After opposition, Jupiter rises in the sky before sunset.  By month’s end, Jupiter is well above the southeastern horizon as the sky darkens after sunset.

Jupiter continues to retrograde, reaching the farthest western point on August 11, 2019.


This chart shows the setting time of Jupiter and other bright celestial objects beginning with Jupiter setting 5 hours after sunset until its conjunction.  A conjunction occurs with Venus on November 24.
The setting moon is shown with circles.  When the lines of two objects cross, they set at the
same time.  Conjunctions can occur a few days before or after the intersection of the lines.  Chart
made from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

Jupiter appears on the setting chart in mid-August, when it sets 5 hours after sunset.  Notice how the Jupiter setting curve angles away from the Antares setting line and toward the Saturn setting line.  Jupiter’s setting curve intersects with Venus, indicating a conjunction (November 24).

Jupiter at Evening Quadrature

The positions of the sun, Earth, and Jupiter when Jupiter is 90° east of the sun, September 8, 2019.

Jupiter continues to appear higher in the sky each night as Earth pulls away.  On September 8, Jupiter is 90° from the sun in the evening sky,  Jupiter is in the south at sunset, setting at nearly 11:30 p.m. CDT.

From this point, Jupiter appears closer to the southwestern horizon at sunset.

A Second Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

During Venus’ evening apparition late in 2019, Venus passes Jupiter again.  Not a close (epoch) conjunction, but the planets are closer than January’s meeting.  The pair appears 1.4°  apart.  Start watching the Venus-Jupiter gap early in the month.  Here are the separations:

Nov 4:     20°
Nov 9:     15°
Nov 14:   10°
Nov 19:     5°
Nov 22:     2°

After the conjunction, the gap:

Nov 25:     2°
Nov 27:     7°

Toward Conjunction

On the evening of the conjunction with Venus, Jupiter sets as twilight ends, so begins its slow slide back into bright sunlight toward its solar conjunction.  As the Venus gaps grows, Jupiter sets at Nautical Twilight, (66 minutes after sunset) on December 6.  It sets at Civil Twilight (30 minutes after sunset) on December 17.  Civil Twilight is about the time that street lights turn on.

The positions of the sun, Earth, and Jupiter when Jupiter returns to its solar conjunction, December 27, 2019.

Jupiter’s appearance ends with its solar conjunction on December 29, 2019.  It then begins another appearance in the morning sky in 2020, the year of the Great Conjunction with Saturn when Jupiter passes very close to Saturn!

Jupiter and the Moon

Dates when Jupiter and the moon appear together

Before Opposition.

January 3:  3.5°
January 30/31:  6.2°/5.7°
February 27: 2°
March 27: 4.3°
April 23: 1°
May 20:  4.7°

After Opposition

June 16: 4.7°
July 13: 7.8°
August 9: 2.2°
September 5: 4°
October 3: 1.8°
October 31: 4.5°
November 28: 5.8°

Photo Gallery

2018: Venus in November Morning Sky

Venus approaches Spica during November 2018

Morning Star Venus approaches Spica in the morning sky during November 2018. Early in the month, look for Venus and Spica with a binocular. Each morning the pair appears higher, with Venus closer to Spica. Venus passes closest on the morning of November 14 and almost as high on November 20. Watch Venus approach Spica, then separate.

 

Video explaining this grouping

Brilliant Morning Star Venus zooms into the morning sky during early November, after its inferior conjunction – between Earth and the sun – in late October.

Our feature article about Venus as a Morning Star in 2018 and 2019: Venus in the Morning Sky, 2018-2019

 

On November 1, at 20 minutes before sunrise, brilliant Venus is low in the east-southeast.  A binocular helps you locate the planet.  The star Spica is noticeably above the gleaming planet.

Each morning, Venus and Spica rise earlier and each morning during the first half of the month, Venus gets closer to Spica. The pair appears higher in the sky and farther southeast each morning.

Spica and other stars seem to make a seemingly unchanging background for the motions of the planets that results from their solar orbits combined with the rotation and revolution of our planet Earth.

By November 5, about 30 minutes before sunrise, the moon is (10°) above Venus.  The next morning, the thinning crescent moon is (9°) to the left of the brilliant Morning Star.

On November 9, Venus rises at the beginning of morning twilight.  As the sky brightens, Venus appears higher in the sky.  On this morning, Venus appears nearly 3 times closer than at the beginning of the month.  The gap continues to close each day.

By November 14, Venus appears about 2 full moon diameters to the lower left of the star.  In space Venus is about 30 million miles away.  Spica is nearly 260 light years away, where 1 light year is nearly 6 trillion miles.  Clearly, they are not actually close in space, but appear in the same direction, much like seeing your neighbor’s house in front of the rising sun.  In space, though, we don’t have the depth perception as we have with terrestrial subjects.

Venus does not pass the star, in an event known as a quasi-conjunction.  This occurs when a planet approaches near a star or another planet, but it does not pass it.  Afterward, Venus moves away from Spica.

Venus continues to climb into the sky compared to Spica, but the planet appears to be separating from the star.  The pair is nearly at the same height on the morning of November 20.

Astronomers use angles to measure the apparent sizes of celestial objects and the separations between them in the sky.  The full moon’s apparent size is 0.5°.  Your index finger, at arm’s length, covers about 1°.  Your fist covers about 10° What follows are the angular separations of Venus and Spica during the month.

Nov

V-S

Nov

V-S

Nov

V-S

1 6.2° 11 1.6° 21 2.4°
2 5.5° 12 1.5° 22 2.7°
3 5.0° 13 1.3° 23 3.0°
4 4.4° 14 1.2° 24 3.3°
5 4.1° 15 1.2° 25 3.7°
6 3.6° 16 1.3° 26 4.1°
7 3.2 17 1.5° 27 4.5°
8 2.8 18 1.6° 28 4.8°
9 2.3 19 1.8° 29 5.3°
10 2.1 20 2.1° 30 5.8°

 

 

Venus in the Morning Sky, 2018-2019

Figure 1:  Venus shines in the morning sky with a crescent moon on September 17, 2017

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo Gallery

Venus returns to the morning sky in late 2018 and shines from the eastern sky until the middle of summer 2019.  The photo above (Figure 1) shows Venus on September 17, 2017, during the last morning appearance.  During  this appearance Venus has conjunctions with Jupiter and Saturn, and a close approach to Mercury.  Venus rises very rapidly in the morning sky after its inferior conjunction on October 26, 2018.  It seems to be chasing Spica into the sky.  By mid-December, Venus rises nearly four hours before sunrise, then begins to slide back toward the sun, taking nearly eight months to reach superior conjunction.

Bookmark this page to return to it follow the progress of Venus in the morning sky,

For readers wanting a detailed and more technical description of the appearance, click here.

Figure 2:  Venus at Inferior Conjunction: October 26, 2018

The morning appearance begins on October 26, 2018, when Venus moves between the earth and sun (inferior conjunction) (Figure 2). It is typically not visible at these times, but Venus is not lined up with the earth and sun. It passes below imaginary line between the earth and sun. Venus might be visible in the clear sky. Around noon, stand under an overhang that blocks the sun. Binoculars or a small telescope might be needed to initially locate it. It is very important not to point any optical instrument at the sun. The light collecting properties of the binoculars or a telescope can damage the device or cause irreparable damage to eyes if you are looking through them. With optical help from a telescope, Venus displays a very thin crescent.

Figure 3:  The rising times of stars and planets compared to sunrise.  The rising of Venus compared to sunrise
is displayed on the green line.  The moon’s rising is shown by the circles.

Venus then quickly moves into the morning sky the chart above (Figure 3) shows the rising time interval of Venus compared to sunrise; the rising time intervals for stars and other planets are shown as well. The circles show the rising time intervals for the moon.  The setting times for Jupiter and Saturn are included.  This occurs in the western sky.  When these planets set at sunrise, they are at opposition.

When the rising line of Venus crosses the rising line of another star or planet they rise at the same time. They are closest within a day or so of this intersection. When a moon circle appears near the rising line, the moon appears near Venus within a day or so.

The three phases of twilight: Civil Twilight, when the sun is 6° below the horizon; Nautical Twilight, sun is 12° below the horizon; and Astronomical Twilight, sun is 18° below the horizon at this time; the sky is as dark as it gets naturally.

This chart was composed from data by the US naval observatory for Chicago, Illinois.

Note that Venus appears seemingly suddenly in the morning sky. It appears to be chasing the star Spica. After Venus reaches its greatest brilliance and greatest elongation, it begins a slow fade into the sun’s glare. On the way it passes Jupiter, and Antares, and Saturn, along with other sign posts.

Venus and Spica, November 2018

Venus seems to be chasing Spica into the sky.  These charts show the pair about 30 minutes before sunrise.

Figure 4:  November 4, 2018, Venus is
4.4° below Spica.

  • November 4 (Figure 4): Only nine days after its conjunction, Venus rises an hour before sunrise this morning it is 4.4° below Spica with the waning crescent moon nearly 27° above Spica; notice the contrast of brightness. Venus is about 100 times brighter than Spica.

Update:  November 10, 2018


Figure 5:  Venus is closing the gap on Spica.

  • November 6 (Figure 5): Brilliant Venus is 3.6° below Spica with the waning crescent moon 9° to the left of the planet. Watch Venus close the gap on Spica during the next week.
  • November 9: Venus rises at the beginning of twilight, about 100 minutes before sunrise. After today, Venus rises before the beginning of twilight until March 14, 2019.

Figure 6: Venus closes about one degree of Spica in mid-November. There is no conjunction but this is the closest approach — a quasi conjunction

  • November 14: (Figure 6): The Spica chase ends when brilliant Venus closes to 1.2° of the star.  Venus does not pass Spica.  Because the separation is less than 5°, this is known as a “quasi-conjunction.”

Venus at Greatest Brightness

Figure 7:  This chart shows the location of Venus
during its 11-day stage of greatest brightness.

  • November 24: Now rising over 3 hours before the sun, brilliant Venus starts its stage of greatest brightness (Figure 7). For the next 11 days it displays its greatest visual intensity. It is important to note that this is not a singular event, but the duration of this greatest brightness occurs across several mornings.  More formally, Venus is near its greatest illuminated extent, defined as a geometrical configuration when Venus has an elongation of 40° – midway between inferior conjunction and greatest elongation.  This occurs December 1, when Venus’ illuminated portion covers more area of the sky than any other time during its apparition. (For a more technical explanation of greatest illuminated extent, see https://tinyurl.com/venus-greatest-illuminated.)  For our description, greatest brilliancy occurs during a 11-day period when Venus displays its greatest visual brightness.  Its brightness measured with light-sensitive equipment may slightly change, but our eyes cannot perceive that minute difference. 


Figure 8:  Look for Venus and Sirius about 2 hours before sunrise in late November.

  • November 29: As Venus is in the middle of its stage of greatest brightness, notice that it is about the same altitude (16°) as brightest star Sirius in the southwest, at about 100 minutes before sunrise. While it is not appropriate in formal astronomy to visually compare respective brightness of objects that are widely separated (101° in this case), notice that Venus is distinctly brighter (about 25 times) than Sirius – the brightest planet compared to the brightest star. Venus is now 5.3° to the lower left of Spica, about two weeks after their quasi-conjunction (Figure 8).

A Morning Planet Dance

 

Figure 9:  The morning planet dance of Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury in late December 2018.

  • December 19:  Today is the greatest time interval between Venus rising and sunrise. While the Venus rising time is still 3:23 a.m. CST (in Chicago), sunrise changed 4 minutes earlier during the past week.  The gap between sunrise and Venus rising now decreases, on average, about 1 minute each morning until Venus rises at Astronomical Twilight less than three months from this morning. Brilliant Venus is 28° up in the southeast, 4.3° above Zubenelgenubi (α Lib).  Bright Jupiter is 27° to the lower left of Venus.  Jupiter is 0.8° to upper right of Omega Ophiuchi (ω Oph) and 5.3° to the upper left of Antares, although the star is only 3° in altitude.  Use binoculars to find it.  Mercury is 2.5° to the upper right of Jupiter and 1° to the upper right of Psi Ophiuchi (ψ Oph). (See Figure 9)
  • December 20: This morning Jupiter is 1.6° below Mercury and 0.6° to the upper right of Omega Ophiuchi. Mercury is 0.6° to the lower left of Psi Ophiuchi.
  • December 21: Mercury, Jupiter and Antares are nearly in a line, spanning 6.1°; the Jupiter-to-Antares gap is 5.2°.  Jupiter is 0.9° to the lower right of Mercury, their closest separation, and 0.4° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi.
  • December 22: Jupiter is 1.2° to the right of Mercury (m = −0.4) and 0.2° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi.
  • December 23: Jupiter is 2° to the upper right of Mercury, which has an altitude of 5°.  The giant planet is 0.22° to the upper left of Omega Ophiuchi.  It passes 5.2° to the upper left of Antares and Mercury passes 6.1° to the upper left of the star.  Venus is nearly 25° to the upper right of Jupiter and 2.9° to the upper left of Zubenelgenubi.

Venus at Morning Greatest Elongation

Figure 10:  Venus at greatest elongation,
January 5, 2009

  • January 5, 2019: Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun (47.0°) (Figure 10). It is 13.6° above Antares. Jupiter is 14.2° to the lower left of Venus and 5.9° from Antares.  Venus and Spica are 35.3° apart. Through a telescope, Venus is nearly the same angular diameter as Mars when it was at its closest last summer (July 31).  Venus appears at its morning half phase.

Venus-Jupiter:  A Widely-Spaced Conjunction

Figure 11:  Venus, Jupiter, and Antares,
January 17, 2019.  Venus
approaches Jupiter

  • January 17: At 6:15 a.m. CST (60 minutes before sunrise), brilliant Venus is 20° up in the southeast (Figure 11). Venus passes 7.8° to the upper left of Antares.  Bright Jupiter is 5.1° to the lower left of Venus and 7.2° from Antares.  Venus is now two times farther from Earth than when we marked its greatest brilliancy, 49 days ago.  Through a telescope, Venus’ terminator is slightly, but distinctly, convex — indicating a morning gibbous phase.

Figure 12: A widely-spaced Venus-Jupiter conjunction.

  • January 22: Venus passes to the upper left of Jupiter this morning in a widely-spaced conjunction (2.4°) (Figure 12). Venus is 22° up in the southeast at 6:30 a.m. CST (40 minutes before sunrise). Venus passes Jupiter (1.1°) again on November 24, 2019, when they appear in the western evening sky on Venus’ next evening apparition. Venus and Jupiter resume their close (epoch) conjunctions with a difficult-to-see grouping on February 11, 2021 (0.4°). An easier-viewed epoch conjunction occurs on April 30, 2022 (0.5°).  Both of these close conjunctions occur in the morning sky.

Venus continues to move eastward against the starry background, away from Jupiter and toward Saturn.

Venus-Saturn Conjunction

Figure 13:  A Venus-Saturn conjunction,
February 18, 2019

  • February 18: At 6 a.m. CST (about 40 minutes before sunrise), Saturn is 13° up in the southeast. This morning is the Venus-Saturn conjunction (Figure 13).  Venus is 1.1° to the upper left of Saturn.  As with Jupiter (described on January 22), Venus has another conjunction with Saturn in the evening sky later this year.  On December 10, 2019, they appear 1.8° apart.  This is followed by a very close conjunction (0.4°) on February 6, 2021 in the morning sky close to sunrise.

Heading Into Twilight & A Close Approach to Mercury

  • March 14: Venus rises at Astronomical Twilight (93 minutes before sunrise) and for the rest of this apparition rises earlier during the phases of twilight. Through a telescope, Venus is growing in its morning gibbous phase. This morning, Jupiter is 90° west of the sun.  It is 52° to the upper right of Venus.  Saturn is 20.8° to Venus’ upper right.

Figure 14: A Venus-Mercury quasi-conjunction,
April 16, 2019

  • April 16: Venus and Mercury have a quasi-conjunction (4.3°) (Figure 14). (See the definition in the November 14 note.)  Mercury has a wide greatest elongation (27.7°), but the ecliptic is at a low angle for viewing. Even with its earliest rising on April 3, Mercury rose 8 minutes before Nautical Twilight, about 65 minutes before sunrise.  You’ll need binoculars to see it in the east-northeast sky.  This morning, Mercury rises 15 minutes after Nautical Twilight.

Figure 15:  A Venus-Mercury-Moon grouping,
May 2, 2019

  • May 2: The waning crescent moon (27.1 d) is 4.3° to the lower right of Venus. Mercury is 8.5° to the lower left of Venus, just above the horizon (Figure 15).  The time interval between Astronomical Twilight and sunrise grows 24 minutes from this morning through mid-June.  While Venus is rising at the same time interval before sunrise for the next month, it appears in a brighter sky.  Note this on the rising chart (Figure 3).

A Bright Twilight Conjunction With Aldebaran

Figure 16:  Venus-Aldebaran,
June 17, 2019

  • June 17: Now rising less than hour before sunrise, Venus passes 4.7° to the upper left of Aldebaran (Figure 16). This will test your observing skills with a telescope. Venus is in a slow slide into the sun’s glare, rising, on average, about 1.7 minutes later each day.

Heading Toward Conjunction

 

Figure 17:  Venus and the moon, July 1, 2019

  • July 1: At 4:55 a.m. CDT (35 minutes before sunrise), a very thin crescent moon (28.0 d) stands 6.3° to the right of Venus (Figure 17). The planet is 3.6° off the east-northeast horizon, another challenge for your observing location and your observing skills.

July 21: Clearly rising in bright twilight, Venus rises farthest north, azimuth equals 57°, the same position the sun rose at the summer solstice. Tomorrow, Venus rises at Civil Twilight (sun’s altitude is −6°), about 30 minutes before sunrise.Figure 18:  Venus at Superior Conjunction,
August 14, 2019

  • August 14: Venus is at superior conjunction, 1:07 a.m. CDT (Figure 17).  This appearance of Venus ends.

 

Appearances with Moon

  • November 6, 2018 (8.9°)
  • December 3, 2018 (5.6°)
  • January 1, 2019 (5.4°)
  • January 31, 2019 (2°)
  • March 2, 2019 (4.3°)
  • April 1, 2019 (8.7°)
  • May 2, 2019 (4.3°)
  • June 1, 2019 (6°)
  • July 1, 2019 (6.3°)

2018, September 18: Start Looking for Vesta

  • September 18: With binoculars begin looking for Vesta (4 Vesta, m = 6.4), moving eastward among the stars of Sagittarius.  In a week it passes south of Saturn. Tonight, the minor planet is 1.3° to the lower right of 9 Sagittarii (9 Sag, m = 5.9), a star in the central area of the Lagoon Nebula (M8, NGC 6523).

2018: September 16-30: Venus at Greatest Brightness

September 12, 2018: Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon.

  • September 16: The moon reaches its First Quarter phase, 6:15 p.m. CDT.  Venus (m = −4.8) begins its period of greatest brightness, a two-week interval where it displays its greatest visual brightness.  On September 21, Venus is at its greatest illuminated extent. Many of us know this time as “greatest brilliancy.”  The two events are about a half-day apart. The instance of greatest brilliance is nearly impossible to see; rather, I note the time period when the planet displays its greatest visual brightness.  The hundredths of a magnitude that distinguish greatest brilliancy are imperceptible to our eyes.  Venus has an elongation of 40° ‒ midway between greatest elongation and inferior conjunction.  Through a telescope it has an evening crescent phase with a 25% illumination and a 40” apparent size. With these factors Venus presents to us an illuminated phase that covers more area of the sky than any other time during its apparition and it is at its brightest. (For a more technical explanation of greatest illuminated extent, see https://tinyurl.com/venus-greatest-illuminated.)

2018, September 12: Venus, Jupiter, and Moon

The sky is very clear this evening. The crescent moon, overexposed in the image, shows Earthshine. Sunlight reflected from Earth falls on the night portion of the moon and gently illuminates it.  Brilliant Venus is just above the southwest horizon.  In about 10 days, Venus begins its cycle of greatest brightness. Jupiter appears over 17 degrees to the upper left of Venus.  Jupiter gets closer to Venus during the month, but there is no conjunction.