Stargazing: Venus shines its brightest

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If Comet ISON doesn't brighten to naked-eye visibility after its close encounter and near disintegration with the sun last week, there is still much to enjoy in the evening sky this week. Our "evening star," Venus, is now shining at its brightest, a dazzling bright --4.9 magnitude, above the southwestern horizon. Binoculars will reveal its crescent shape, best viewed around sunset.

Venus will also be part of a stunning conjunction with the waxing crescent moon this week. Look for the stunning duo Thursday evening 30 minutes after sunset, 20 degrees above the southwestern horizon. By Friday evening, the waxing crescent moon will have climbed to about 15 degrees to the upper left of our sister planet.

Venus will rapidly sink to the southwestern horizon this month and then end its current cycle in the evening sky as it disappears in the glare of the sun in early January. Our sister planet will then reappear above the east-southeastern horizon in the morning sky in late January.

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