© NASA/Ricardo Nunes

Venus at greatest brightness

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

Objects: Venus
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Venus will reach its greatest brightness in its 1996 evening apparition. It will be shining brightly at mag -4.5.

From Seattle , this apparition will be exceptionally well placed and prominent, reaching a peak altitude of 41° above the horizon at sunset on 1 Apr 1996.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.

1996 evening apparition of Venus

31 Mar 1996 – Venus at greatest elongation east
01 Apr 1996 – Venus at highest altitude in evening sky
02 Apr 1996 – Venus at dichotomy
05 May 1996 – Venus at greatest brightness
10 Jun 1996 – Venus at inferior solar conjunction

A graph of the brightness of Venus is available here.

Apparitions of Venus

10 Jun 1993 – Morning apparition
24 Aug 1994 – Evening apparition
13 Jan 1995 – Morning apparition
31 Mar 1996 – Evening apparition
20 Aug 1996 – Morning apparition
05 Nov 1997 – Evening apparition
27 Mar 1998 – Morning apparition

Observing Venus

Venus's orbit lies closer to the Sun than the Earth's, meaning that it always appears close to the Sun and is lost in the Sun's glare much of the time.

It is observable for a few months each time it reaches greatest separation from the Sun – moments referred to as greatest elongation. These apparitions repeat roughly once every 1.6 years.

On these occasions, Venus is so bright and conspicuous that it becomes the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and Moon. It is often called the morning star or the evening star.

Venus's brightness

Venus's brightness depends on two factors: its closeness to the Earth, and its phase. Its phase varies depending on its position relative to the Earth. When it passes between the Earth and Sun, for example, the side that is turned towards the Earth is entirely unilluminated, like a new moon.

Conversely, when it lies opposite to the Earth in its orbit, passing almost behind the Sun, it appears fully illuminated, like a full moon. However, at this time it is also at its most distant from the Earth, so it is actually fainter than at other times.

Venus reaches its brightest when it is still a crescent – with less than half of its disk illuminated. This is because it is much closer to the Earth during its crescent phases than at other times.

As a result, during evening apparitions, Venus reaches maximum brightness a few days after it is at greatest separation from the Sun, which always coincides with it showing half-phase (dichotomy).

Conversely, during morning apparitions, Venus reaches maximum brightness a few days before it is at greatest separation from the Sun.

Venus's position

The coordinates of Venus when it reaches its greatest brightness will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
Venus 05h35m10s 27°47'N Taurus 37.3"
Sun 02h51m +16°24' Aries 31'42"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 21 January 2022
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

19-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


19 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 07:41 12:31 17:21
Venus 06:05 10:54 15:43
Moon 19:47 03:02 10:03
Mars 05:46 09:55 14:03
Jupiter 09:15 14:31 19:47
Saturn 08:27 13:11 17:54
All times shown in PST.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.

Related news

01 Apr 1996  –  Venus at highest altitude in evening sky
20 Aug 1996  –  Venus at greatest elongation west
12 Sep 1996  –  Venus at highest altitude in morning sky
05 Nov 1997  –  Venus at greatest elongation east

Image credit

© NASA/Ricardo Nunes






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