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This Month: Brilliant Venus Transitions To The Morning Sky

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This Month: Brilliant Venus Transitions To The Morning Sky

Until now Venus has put on a spectacular winter show, shining brilliantly in the western sky right after sundown. But over the next ten days, Venus is going to rapidly exit the evening sky and make the transition into the morning sky; visible low in the east before sunrise. Through even a pair of steadily-held binoculars you’ll see Venus appearing like a crescent moon.

On Thursday, March 16th, half an hour after sunset, Venus sits 9 degrees above the horizon, slightly north of due west. Look for Venus to twinkle in the twilight because its crescent is so thin! A small telescope then shows it as a long sickle, less than 4 percent sunlit.

At sunset, on the evening of March 22nd, as seen from mid-northern latitudes, Venus sits 6 degrees above the western horizon and will set just over a half hour later. Scan the horizon with binoculars to pick it up.

Then, the very next morning, about a half hour before sunrise, Venus will rise at a point on the horizon 9° north of due east; again use binoculars to pick it up against the brightening twilight sky. So here is an unusual opportunity to spot this dazzling planet both at dusk and again at dawn the following morning.

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Venus will pass directly north of the Sun on March 23rd. Then, on Saturday, March 25th at 6 a.m. EDT, the planet reaches inferior conjunction, passing the Sun’s position along the ecliptic. And Venus is closest to the Sun in the sky (8.3 degrees apart) just a few hours after that. This closes out Venus’s run as an evening star; beginning March 26th, and for the balance of the year, Venus will be solely a morning object. On March 31st, Venus rises about 55 minutes before the sun at a point on the horizon about 10 degrees north of due east. A half hour before sunrise it should readily be visible standing 5 degrees above the horizon; it will become a prominent morning object during April.

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