Phases of Venus

June 4th, 2018 | by sbieger |

The skies this spring are graced by the closest and yet perhaps the most enigmatic object beside our moon. The planet Venus has been sparkling in the western sky now for weeks. Our nearest planet has a number of mysteries associated with it - it’s cloud cover and it’s sulfuric acid atmosphere and a surface corroded past any terrestrial warranty of any kind. But perhaps Venus’ most wondrous mystery is the characteristic of the bright planet right in front of our very eyes - it’s phases.

We marvel now at this jewel of the evening sky (sometimes in the morning). For centuries, people of planet Earth have worshiped Venus as a Goddess in her many guises.  But until 1610, when Galileo peered through his modest telescope, the entire human race was ignorant of her changing face as she drifts around the Sun. When we look closely at our sister planet, with a little bit of magnification, we get to see that Venus goes through phases, very much like our moon. This is what Galileo saw in 1610 and the result of his observations essentially clinched the argument for the Copernican Heliocentric theory.

For us mere mortals, we can simply aim a small telescope up at Venus and enjoy it for ourselves. As of this writing, Venus is almost 80 percent full or basically still a gibbous shape. Venus reaches half phase in mid August. After then, as the planet comes around in its orbit over the next few weeks, that shape will steadily work it’s way into a crescent shape that grows ever thinner. By late September, this crescent gets very thin and by late October, the planet is too close to the Sun for safe observation. Shortly after this time, she becomes the “morning star” once again, emerging ahead of the sun in the pre-dawn morning light.

Take some time to get to know our sister in the sky. Check these links below for more details on the phases of Venus. Wikipedia Venus & Wikipedia Galileo

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