© NASA/Ricardo Nunes

Venus at greatest brightness

Dominic Ford, Editor
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The sky at

In the southern hemisphere Venus will be well placed for observation in the evening sky, shining brightly at mag -3.9.

From Ashburn however, it will not be readily observable since it will be very close to the Sun, at a separation of only 0° from it.

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Venus's orbit lies closer to the Sun than the Earth's, meaning that it always appears close to the Sun and is very difficult to observe most of the time.

It is observable only for a few weeks each time it reaches greatest separation from the Sun – moments referred to as greatest elongation.

On these occasions, however, 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 or 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 in coming weeks

The key moments in this apparition of Venus are as follows:

06 Jun 2016 17:15 EDT – Venus at superior solar conjunction
06 Jun 2016 18:33 EDT – Venus at greatest brightness

Over coming weeks, the distance between Venus and the Sun will decrease each night as it sinks back into the Sun's glare. The table below lists how long Venus will remain up after sunset each night; all times are given in Ashburn local time.

Date Sun
sets at
sets at
Altitude of Venus
at sunset
Direction of Venus
at sunset
30 May 201620:2320:15-2°north-west
06 Jun 201620:2820:30north-west
13 Jun 201620:3220:43north-west
20 Jun 201620:3420:55north-west
27 Jun 201620:3521:04north-west
04 Jul 201620:3421:10north-west
11 Jul 201620:3221:13west
18 Jul 201620:2921:14west
25 Jul 201620:2421:13west
01 Aug 201620:1721:09west
08 Aug 201620:0921:04west

A graph of the brightness of Venus is available here.

Venus's position

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

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Angular Size
Venus 05h00m50s +22°44' Taurus 9.6"
Sun 05h00m +22°44' Taurus 31'31"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 06 June 2016
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

1-day old moon
Waxing Crescent


1 day old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:37 11:30 18:24
Venus 05:44 13:07 20:30
Moon 07:37 14:44 21:50
Mars 18:50 23:40 04:35
Jupiter 12:43 19:10 01:41
Saturn 19:58 00:55 05:48
All times shown in EDT.


Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.


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

26 Oct 2015, 02:59 EDT  –  Venus at greatest elongation west
12 Jan 2017, 10:52 EST  –  Venus at greatest elongation east
03 Jun 2017, 01:58 EDT  –  Venus at greatest elongation west
17 Aug 2018, 03:58 EDT  –  Venus at greatest elongation east

Image credit

© NASA/Ricardo Nunes




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