Stargazing: Venus begins fall from evening sky

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Venus has been a dazzling bright beacon in the western evening sky this past winter and spring. However, our sister planet's reign as an "evening star" is about to end as the planet rapidly sinks toward the sun and the western horizon in May.

Just one week ago, Venus set nearly four hours after the sun. However, by the end of May, Venus will set 60 minutes after the sun. As you watch Venus plunge one degree a day toward the horizon this month, you will also notice its rapid decrease in brightness. Venus will start May shining at a dazzling --4.5 magnitude but will end the month at --3.9 magnitude.

A small telescope will also reveal Venus' full crescent shape, that's 26 percent lit at the beginning of May, then shrink to a wafer-thin crescent that's only 2.5 percent lit by June 1.

On June 5, Venus' orbit will take it directly between Earth and sun for the last time this century.

science - bookclub

First Published April 30, 2012 12:00 AM


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