Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Inner Planets feed
As seen from Ashburn , Venus will reach its highest point in the sky in its 2020 morning apparition. It will be shining brightly at mag -4.3.
From Ashburn, this apparition will be well placed and prominent, reaching a peak altitude of 40° above the horizon at sunrise on 4 Sep 2020.
The table below lists how high Venus will appear at sunrise over the course of its the apparition. All times are given in Ashburn local time.
|16 Jun 2020||05:45||04:40||11°||north-west|
|26 Jun 2020||05:47||04:02||18°||north-west|
|06 Jul 2020||05:52||03:33||25°||north-west|
|16 Jul 2020||05:59||03:13||30°||north-west|
|26 Jul 2020||06:07||02:59||34°||north-west|
|05 Aug 2020||06:16||02:52||37°||north-west|
|15 Aug 2020||06:25||02:50||39°||north-west|
|25 Aug 2020||06:34||02:54||40°||north-west|
|04 Sep 2020||06:43||03:03||40°||north-west|
|14 Sep 2020||06:52||03:16||39°||north-west|
|24 Sep 2020||07:01||03:32||39°||north-west|
|04 Oct 2020||07:10||03:50||37°||north-west|
|14 Oct 2020||07:20||04:09||35°||north-west|
|24 Oct 2020||07:31||04:28||33°||west|
|03 Nov 2020||06:41||03:49||30°||west|
|13 Nov 2020||06:53||04:10||28°||west|
|23 Nov 2020||07:04||04:32||25°||west|
A graph of the angular separation of Venus from the Sun around the time of greatest elongation is available here.
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.
These apparitions take place alternately in the morning and evening skies, depending whether Venus lies to the east of the Sun or to the west.
When it lies to the east, it rises and sets a short time after the Sun and is visible in early evening twilight. When it lies to the west of the Sun, it rises and sets a short time before the Sun and is visible shortly before sunrise.
At each apparition, Venus reaches a separation from the Sun of around 48°. This distance is set by the geometry of how big Venus's orbit is, and how far away it is from the Earth.
However, some times of the year are more favourable for viewing Venus than others. From Ashburn, it reaches a maximum altitude of between 23° and 45° at sunrise during each morning apparition, depending on the time of year. During its 2020 apparition, it will peak at 40° above the horizon at sunrise on 4 Sep 2020.
The inclination of the ecliptic to the horizon
At all times, Venus lies close to a line across the sky called the ecliptic, which is shown in yellow in the planetarium above. This line traces the path that the Sun takes through the zodiacal constellations every year, and shows the plane of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. Since all the planets circle the Sun in almost exactly the same plane, it also closely follows the planes of the orbits of the other planets, too.
When Venus is widely separated from the Sun, it is separated from it along the line of the ecliptic. But, at different times of year, this translates into Venus being at different altitudes above the horizon at sunrise. This is because at different times of year, the ecliptic meets the horizon at different angles at sunrise.
If the ecliptic meets the horizon at a shallow angle, then even if Venus is widely separated from the Sun, it may not appear very high above the horizon at sunrise. Conversely, if the ecliptic is almost perpendicular to the horizon, Venus may appear much higher in the sky, even if it is actually much closer to the Sun.
The seasonal dependence of this is that at sunset, the ecliptic makes its steepest angle to the horizon at the spring equinox – in March in the northern hemisphere, and in September in the southern hemisphere. Conversely, it meets the horizon at its shallowest angle at the autumn equinox. Because the seasons are opposite in the northern and southern hemispheres, a good apparition of Venus in one hemisphere will usually be badly placed in the other.
At sunrise, these dates are also inverted, so that for morning apparitions of Venus, the ecliptic makes its steepest angle to the horizon at the autumn equinox, and its shallowest angle to the horizon at the spring equinox.
The optimum time for an apparition of Venus
For this reason, the day when Venus reaches its widest separation from the Sun (greatest elongation) is not necessarily the same day when it appears highest in the sky at sunrise. Venus typically appears highest in the sky a few days or weeks closer to the autumn equinox than the moment of greatest elongation.
The inclination of the ecliptic plane to the horizon at Ashburn varies between 74° (sunrise at the autumn equinox) and 27° (sunrise at the spring equinox). On September 4, the ecliptic is inclined at 67° to the eastern dawn horizon, as shown by the yellow line in the planetarium above, meaning that this apparition of Venus will be well placed and prominent, reaching a peak altitude of 40° above the horizon at sunrise.
The position of Venus when it reaches its highest point will be:
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
|The sky on 04 September 2020|
16 days old
All times shown in EDT.
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.
|04 Sep 2020||– Venus reaches highest point in morning sky|
|29 Oct 2021||– Venus at greatest elongation east|
|06 Dec 2021||– Venus reaches highest point in evening sky|
|16 Feb 2022||– Venus reaches highest point in morning sky|
© NASA/Ricardo Nunes