Look up into the night sky this week and you’ll be able to spot the planet Venus without much trouble.
The second planet from the sun will be clearly visible as it reaches its greatest level of brightness for the entire year this week. It will hit peak brightness on the night of Tuesday, April 28.
So, as you would expect, it’s going to be very bright this evening as well.
Venus won’t be tough to find either as last night (April 26th) the planet reached conjunction with the moon.
That means it shared the same celestial longitude and appeared very close in the sky to our lunar neighbour.
So all you have to do is find the moon and you’ll see Venus shining brightly next to it.
In fact, Venus is the third brightest object in the night sky (astronomers refer to brightness as magnitude) behind the Sun and the moon. The planet shines so brightly it’s been nicknamed the ‘evening star’.
Why is Venus so bright?
Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth, so it orbits inside Earth’s path.
When it is on the far side of the Sun, Venus cannot be seen, but as it comes round, getting closer to Earth, it becomes brighter and brighter, reflecting light from the Sun.
Less of the planet can be seen, the closer it gets to Earth, but due to it being closer it will appear large in the sky.
As it gets closer to Earth it is visible in the evening, then when it passes its closest point and moves away again it is visible in the morning.
Technically, Venus’ brightest point is known as its ‘greatest illuminated extent’ – when it is getting closest to us, without being directly between us and the Sun.
Venus has the ability to appear so bright because it reflects a very high percentage of sunlight that strikes it – a characteristic known as albedo.
Venus has an albedo of .7, which means it reflects around 70% of the light that strikes it.
This is thanks to the sulphuric clouds that surround the planet which behave like a mirror for sunlight.
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