Venus, our nearest neighbor, will be shining at its brightest over the next several days. The planet reaches its maximum near dawn on July 10, with a magnitude of 4.5.
Look toward the East, low on the horizon, in the hours before dawn, and you will see Venus, the morning star, sitting just below the planet Jupiter, which, though dimmer than Venus, will also be dazzlingly bright.
Venus is the third-brightest celestial object the sky, after the sun and moon, and Jupiter the usually the fourth, though it is occasionally out-shined by Mars.
Because Venus orbits between the Earth and the Sun, there is great variation in its apparent size and brilliance. Venus is now between the Earth and the Sun – as it demonstrated in the spectacular transit event in early June – which means it is relatively close to us.
Like the Moon, Venus has phases, though they aren’t as easy to detect with the naked eye. The planet reflects different amounts of the Sun’s light at different times, making it seem more or less bright, regardless of its distance.