The Thinning and Brightening of Venus

At least as of late last week, Venus was about as bright as we ever see it.  It is also getting thinner and thinner by way of its crescent reflection of the Sun.  That seems a bit counter intuitive, but I suppose the combination of Venus’s distance to Earth, its size, and proximity to the Sun all make this stunning magnitude possible.

Soon, Venus will quickly descend back towards the Sun.  The journey started in the summer last year, when I began searching for Venus just above the horizon after sunset.  Back then, the disc was probably 70-85% illuminated but on the wrong side of the Sun.  Over the ensuing months Venus climbed higher and higher.  Ideal viewing, at the highest and brightest, just finished, lasting about two months.

So we (or at least I) say goodbye to Venus, for now.  That leaves us with a bummer time for planetary observing.  Mars is very dim.  Saturn it close to the Sun and in the low morning sky.  The only upcoming hope is mighty Jupiter – visible from mid evening until sunrise as it travels across the Sun’s elliptic during the night.  I’m anxious because in about another month or two, we will be back in prime Jupiter viewing season once again.

I took the above image with my 127mm Mak-Cass using a 7.5mm Plossl eyepiece and Baader Neodymium filter, afocally with my smartphone (stacked video).



I write frequently about astrophotography, technology advice, and my other interests like science fiction. I have nearly 30 years of experience in computer programming, information technology, and project management.

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