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The Urban Astronomer

Brilliant Venus

23 Jan 2012, 06:59 UTC
Brilliant Venus
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Venus is growing brighter in the west each evening, a brilliant evening 'star' that commands your attention as you see the sunset sky darkening. I enjoy the game of finding Venus right after sunset, particularly from Ocean Beach not far from my home in San Francisco. If you have a good western horizon, Venus is well-placed above and to the left of the point of sunset. I find that just a few minutes after the sun has set, I can often find Venus, knowing that this time of year, the Moon and planets that are in the west shortly after sunset are, in fact, nearly 'above' the Sun since the path of these objects (the Ecliptic) is at a wide angle above the horizon. The image showing the position of the Moon and Venus on January 24, 25 and 26 gives you a sense of how great the angle of the Ecliptic is in the winter.You can use this concept to help you find Venus after sunset, and see just how many minutes after the sun sets that you can spot that shimmering point of light we call our sister planet.Image courtesy of Sky & Telescope Magazine.

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