Venus – Evening Star or Morning Star? | Astro Navigation Demystified
Viewed from the Earth it never gets too far away from the Sun in terms of angles in the sky, no more than about 45 degrees away. As it orbits around the Sun and we watch it from the Earth, Venus moves from one side of the Sun to the other alternately passing in front and then behind the Sun. When Venus is on the western side of the Sun, it rises before the Sun and is the Morning star.
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When Venus is on the eastern side of the Sun the planet is visible after the Sun sets and is the Evening star. Although all the planets orbit the Sun in ellipses the orbit of Venus is the least elliptical and is very close to circular. Because their orbits are nearly circular the two planets move around the Sun with nearly constant velocities which means the geometry between the two planets changes on a regular timetable.
We will see that the key time signature in this relationship is a period of around 36 days.
After we lose sight of Venus in mid-July, its angular distance to the Sun continues to decrease and it is on the opposite side of the Sun to the Earth in mid-August. Venus then starts increasing its angular distance from the Sun and comes out of the glare in mid-October, now on the Eastern side of the Sun and becomes the Evening star, visible after the Sun sets. So where does the day time signature appear? Well, about days which is 6 x 36 days after Superior Conjunction, Venus reaches its greatest angular distance East of the Sun and 36 days after that reaches its maximum brightness.
Another 36 days later and it stands between the Earth and Sun, lost in the glare again.
Eye on the Night Sky
Over another days it moves on to the next Superior Conjunction. If we add up all the day time intervals between events it comes to days which is called the synodic period of Venus. This is the period it takes for the positions between the two planets to repeat. Yet with each passing day, it has beenmoving on a slow course to the east, pulling away from the sun from our pointof view.
Rise of the Evening Star
Now Venus hangs low in the western sky at sunset, an"evening star" that will rise higher each night. Anyone with a clearview of the western horizon can now spot Venus with the naked eye just afterthe sun sets and for about an hour thereafter, but finding it low on thehorizon and amid the sun's fading glare could prove challenging.
By Feb. Continuing to swing east of the sun during March, Venus willsoon become plainly visible in the western evening sky even to the most casualof observers. Appearing as a brilliant white starlike object of magnitude? On thismagnitude scale, smaller numbers represent brighter objects, and Venus is the brightestnatural object in the sky other than the sun and moon.
Venus slowly rises higher each evening to adorn the westernevening sky all during the upcoming spring and summer. By the first week ofJune, it will be setting more than two-and-a-half hours after the sun. Theplanet's greatest altitude at sunset will also be occurring at this time.
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From March 28 to April 12, Venus and Mercury will make foran attractive pair in the west-northwest sky soon after sunset.? Between thesetwo dates these two planets are within 5 degrees of each other, Venus appearingto the left and slightly above the dimmer Mercury.
Your fist on anoutstretched arm measures about 10 degrees of sky. The ancient civilizations thought that the morning star and the evening star were separate celestial bodies.
Pythagoras, the famous Greek mathematician, is believed to be the first person to realize that the morning and evening stars were actually the same object — Venus. The Egyptians had two names for the planets because they thought it was actually two stars. The morning star was called Tioumoutri, and the evening star was known as Ouaiti.
Its brightness is caused in part by the clouds of toxic gases that comprise its atmosphere. The sulfur dioxide and other elements in these clouds reflect light from the Sun causing the planet to shine. Long after astronomers discovered that Venus was no longer the evening or morning star it has captivated the imagination of many.
The swirling clouds that hid the surface of this shining planet from view were thought to shield a tropical paradise.
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