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Venus at greatest brightness

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

Venus will reach its greatest brightness in its 2011–2012 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 42° above the horizon at sunset on 30 Mar 2012.

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

The table below lists how high Venus will appear at sunset over the course of the apparition. All times are given in Seattle local time.

Date Sun
sets at
sets at
at sunset
at sunset
31 Dec 201116:1915:0019°south-west
10 Jan 201216:3719:4323°south-west
20 Jan 201216:5020:1127°south-west
30 Jan 201217:0520:3830°south-west
09 Feb 201217:2121:0434°south-west
19 Feb 201217:3721:3037°south-west
29 Feb 201217:5221:5439°south-west
10 Mar 201218:0722:1840°south-west
20 Mar 201219:2223:4142°west
30 Mar 201219:3600:0142°west
09 Apr 201219:5000:1441°west
19 Apr 201220:0400:2139°west
29 Apr 201220:1800:1635°west
09 May 201220:3223:5229°west
19 May 201220:4423:0820°west
29 May 201220:5522:00north-west

A graph of the brightness of Venus is available here.

Observing Venus

The 2011–2012 evening apparition of Venus
26 Mar 2012 – Venus at greatest elongation east
29 Mar 2012 – Venus at dichotomy
30 Mar 2012 – Venus reaches highest point in evening sky
30 Apr 2012 – Venus at greatest brightness

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 05h14m50s +27°44' Taurus 37.4"
Sun 02h33m +15°03' Aries 31'44"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 30 April 2012
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

9-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


9 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:18 11:38 17:58
Venus 07:22 15:48 00:15
Moon 14:13 20:42 02:46
Mars 14:08 21:03 04:02
Jupiter 06:23 13:44 21:06
Saturn 18:35 00:12 05:44
All times shown in PDT.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 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

30 Apr 2012  –  Venus at greatest brightness
05 Jun 2012  –  Venus at inferior solar conjunction
05 Jun 2012  –  Transit of Venus
10 Jul 2012  –  Venus at greatest brightness

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