Volume: 04, Issue: 15 03/22/2006 
Venus climbs highest in the morning sky during March, when it reaches the peak of its predawn appearance. Astronomy: Terri Field.
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Venus Transit seen by NASA's Sun-observing TRACE spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/LMSAL.
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The path of Venus is shown over a nine-hour period with the Solar X-ray Imager instrument on NOAA's GOES-12 spacecraft. Image Credit: NOAA.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
NASA’s Spitzer Reveals Stellar Smoke
Scientists Use Satellites to Help Detect Deep-Ocean Whirlpools
Mars Rovers Get New Manager During Challenging Period
Discuss the GOES-N Mission with NOAA Scientist Thomas Wrublewski
 

Venus Bright in the Morning Sky

The “morning star” Venus lights the sky before dawn, heralding spring’s arrival. On March 25, the brilliant planet reaches it greatest western elongation – when the planet is as far west of the Sun as possible. Then, it sits just above the horizon in the southeast sky two hours before sunrise. Look for the waning crescent Moon passing to the right of the “morning star.” Venus will be the bright object just to the upper left of the Moon. Each day thereafter, Venus’ sky position sinks closer to the horizon. Venus shone at its brightest, magnitude -4.6, in February, but the planet will dominate the morning sky throughout the summer.

To the naked eye, Venus’ light rivals only moonshine in the early morning sky. But you can use a telescope to watch as the planet changes phases, like the Moon’s, during the year. By March 25, its globe measures 25” through a telescope and has fattened to half-lit. It is at its brightest for the year now; even though the phase increases, its angular size decreases as the Earth-Venus distance increases.

Our “sister planet” lies an average of 67 million miles (108 kilometers) from the Sun. Because Venus lies closer to the Sun than Earth, it always appears close to our star in the sky.

On March 26, Venus and the Moon help you spot a rarely seen planet: Neptune. At about 5 a.m. local time. Venus appears slightly north of (above) Neptune. The Moon lies just below and to the left of the planets.

Here are some quick facts about Venus:
•Venus orbits the Sun in 225 days.
•Our sister planet is about 7,521 miles (12,104 km) in diameter of 95 % the size of Earth.
•The planet spins on its axis once every 243 days, but it spins in the opposite direction of Earth – on Venus, the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
•Venus’ atmosphere is thick sulfuric-acid clouds, which reflect sunlight extremely well.
•The surface temperature on Venus can approach 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius); it is the hottest place in the solar system after the Sun.
•In Roman mythology, Venus was identified with the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. To the ancient Mayans, Venus was the patron planet of warfare called Kukulcan (the feathered serpent).

For more information, please visit the following websites:
http://sse.jpl.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Venus&Display=Kids
http://www.astronomy.com/asy/default.aspx?c=a&id=4053.

Space Explorers Mission: Solar System subscribers can also read more about Venus and the other planets by visiting our Space Library at www.space-explorers.com.

    
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