An easy way to marvel at the night sky
… or the early morning sky, in my case.
For almost a week I have noticed a extra-bright light in the still-dark southeast sky before I go to work. At first I thought it was an airplane; it’s not uncommon for me to stand out on my balcony and see a brilliant light in the sky heading toward me until it is almost overhead, and then turning north to the airport.
But this one just sat there, blazing. Was it a comet? I didn’t remember hearing about a comet, but was curious so I Googled it. I landed on Time and Date’s “Planets Visible in the Night Sky” . There on the The Interactive Night Sky Map you can see what the night sky looks like–at this very moment, at your exact location. And there was my bright light and the crescent moon exactly where I saw them.
The luminous orb turned out to be my old friend, Venus, “the morning star” whom I’ve long admired. But I still didn’t know why it seemed so much brighter than usual.
I got my answer on EarthSky.org:
Venus is brightest in our sky around the time it passes between us and the sun. Astronomers call this its “greatest illuminated extent”. In 2018, Venus will reach its greatest illuminated extent in the morning sky on December 1 or 2, 2018. You can read more about it here.
And also, by coincidence, it turns out that right now there is a comet we can see! Wirtanen, the last comet of 2018, will be visible throughout December. In my area, the best time to see it is from about 7:30 to 9:45 PM.
Ah, the sky!
Such joy to the eye!
In you we can see
Seek the one who fashions the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the deep darkness into morning, who darkens day into night, who calls out to the waters of the sea, pouring them out onto the surface of the earth: the LORD is his name. (Amos 5:8)
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