_Bright Lights in the Evening Sky: Spot Venus & Jupiter
If you happen to see two intensely bright "stars" in the night sky tonight, you are probably looking at a pair of dazzling planets: Venus and Jupiter are unmistakable bright lights outshining all stars right now. Venus and Jupiter will shine brightly in the evening sky; only the moon will be brighter. The planets will continue to dance closer and closer to one another until March.
Venus and Jupiter are two of the brightest planets in the night sky, making them relatively easy to find because they should appear much more luminous than any stars. If you have clear skies overhead, you should be able to spot these eye-catching worlds with your naked eyes.
Binoculars or a small telescope will reveal Venus to be a round, featureless disk rather than just a point of light. A modest amateur telescope can help you discern the colorful cloud bands of Jupiter. [Video: Jupiter & Venus Loom Large This Winter] _
_Venus: The brightest "star" Venus will be visible in the western sky at dusk, lasting
into the early evening. The brilliant planet will appear noticeably
higher in the sky, and observers will likely be able to spot it shortly
after the sun sets, providing there are no obstructions such as trees,
tall mountains or buildings. Venus will continue to climb higher as it prepares to swing near Jupiter in the night sky in March.
On January 25 and 26, skywatchers will find that the crescent moon
provides a nifty guide for finding Venus in the evening sky, as the two
objects appear close to one another.
Venus is the second planet from the sun, and the brightest planet in
our night sky, when it's visible. In ancient times, the planet was
thought to be two different stars — the evening star and the morning
star. This is because as Venus circles the sun inside Earth's orbit, the
celestial body is visible for about 9 1/2 months in the evening sky,
and then alternates, spending approximately the same amount of time in
the morning sky.The rest of the time it’s behind the sun or in front of
the sun and hidden by its glare.
Venus takes about 225 Earth days to travel around the sun. The planet
also rotates the opposite way that Earth does on its axis. So on Earth,
the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but on Venus the sun
would rise in the west and set in the east.
Currently, the other bright light in the night sky is the planet Jupiter, which will dazzle skywatchers in the late evening sky, lasting into the early morning hours.
At nightfall, Jupiter can be visible on the border between the
constellations Aries and Pisces. Jupiter is high in the eastern sky at
sunset. The planet moves westward into the evening and reaches its
highest point in the sky between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time (later each
night as the month progresses).
The planet will set in the western sky between midnight and 2 a.m.
local time this month and into February.
If you own a telescope,
don't forget to also look out for Jupiter's four largest moons: Io,
Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. As the moons dance around Jupiter, their
positions every night will differ, but these natural satellites have
been known to put on a celestial show for lucky skywatchers.