© NASA/Ricardo Nunes

Venus at greatest brightness

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed

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The sky at

Venus will be well placed for observation in the evening sky, shining brightly at mag -4.6.

From Ashburn, it will become visible at around 18:05 (EST) as the dusk sky fades, 35° above your western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 3 hours and 23 minutes after the Sun at 21:10.

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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:

12 Jan 2017 10:52 EST – Venus at greatest elongation east
14 Jan 2017 08:13 EST – Venus at dichotomy
18 Feb 2017 10:42 EST – Venus at greatest brightness
25 Mar 2017 06:12 EDT – Venus at inferior solar conjunction
26 Apr 2017 14:36 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
11 Feb 201717:3721:1740°south-west
18 Feb 201717:4521:1038°south-west
25 Feb 201717:5320:5834°west
04 Mar 201718:0020:3629°west
11 Mar 201718:0820:0422°west
18 Mar 201719:1520:2212°west
25 Mar 201719:2119:33west
01 Apr 201719:2818:44-8°west
08 Apr 201719:3518:00-18°west
15 Apr 201719:4217:26-25°north-west
22 Apr 201719:4917:01-31°north-west

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 00h27m20s +07°57' Pisces 39.9"
Sun 22h08m -11°29' Aquarius 32'21"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 18 February 2017
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

21-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


21 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 06:32 11:36 16:40
Venus 08:12 14:41 21:10
Moon 00:37 05:54 11:11
Mars 08:49 15:12 21:35
Jupiter 21:59 03:42 09:20
Saturn 03:10 07:57 12:43
All times shown in EST.


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

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
06 Jan 2019, 01:02 EST  –  Venus at greatest elongation west

Image credit

© NASA/Ricardo Nunes




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