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30 Nov 2018
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In December 2018, Venus is an outstanding predawn sight for the unaided eye, as well as binoculars and telescopes. Who would fail to wonder at the sight of brilliant Venus near a predawn crescent moon? Separated in time by about a month, Venus-moon pairings on Dec. 3 and Jan. 1 provide easy chances to locate Venus in the daytime with the unaided eye. Telescopic views reveal Venus’ changing phase—28 and 48 percent on those respective dates—coupled with a shrinking apparent size as the planet recedes from Earth. When Venus appears half-full just a few days into the new year, it will be “rounding the bend,” moving from the near side into the far side of its nearly circular orbit around the sun, as Venus’ orbit is viewed nearly edge-on from planet Earth. Venus, about 25 percent full in early December, gleams at magnitude -4.9, as bright as it ever gets.…
31 Oct 2018
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In November 2018, Venus is the up-and-coming morning “star.” Next inward from Earth in our solar system, fast-moving Venus overtook our planet in late October while passing nearly between Earth and sun. Day by day in November, Venus rockets higher into the southeastern morning sky. Rising in twilight a full hour before sunup by Nov. 4, Venus’ rising time improves to two hours before sunup on Nov. 13, and three hours before on Nov. 27. (Graphic credit: Jeffrey L. Hunt.) As it becomes visible in a dark predawn sky before the onset of twilight, Venus also increases in brilliance to magnitude -4.9—as bright as it ever gets. That’s easily bright enough to spot it in the daytime. One easy way to do that is to find Venus before sunup, and keep track of it until after sunrise. This is the best time to enjoy Venus through a telescope, or even…
27 Sep 2018
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The moon passes the three bright outer planets at dusk Oct. 11-18. Venus, in transition from the evening to the morning sky, is lost in sun’s glare for most of month. Around Halloween, Arcturus, low in west-northwest at dusk, leads a procession of bright stars through the night, and brings up the rear low in the east-northeast at dawn. At dusk: In early October, Venus sets very soon after sunset; it shows up on our evening twilight sky map for just the first few days of the month. Look for soon-to-depart Jupiter very low in the southwest to west-southwest; Saturn in the south-southwest; and Mars in the south-southeast. Before month’s end, Mercury begins an unfavorable evening appearance during which it will remain very low. Binoculars will come in handy for spotting Mercury within 5 degrees of Jupiter Oct. 25-Nov. 1. They’re closest, 3.2 degrees apart, on Oct. 28. Stars: Arcturus…