Venus And Red Supergiant Antares Meet At Dusk

Brilliant Venus (top) slips by Antares in Scorpius this week. Closest approach occurs tonight Oct. 16. Created with Stellarium

There are only four bright stars that lie near the ecliptic, the path the planets, sun and moon take through the sky – Regulus (Leo), Spica (Virgo), Aldebaran (Taurus) and Antares in Scorpius. This week Venus passes the red star Antares in the evening sky. Closest approach of 1.5 degrees happens tonight.

Twilight may be too bright for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes to spot Antares with the naked eye. Then again, it may be visible if your sky is very clear. Either way the close conjunction will be easy to see in binoculars. Aim them at Venus between 30 minutes and an hour after sunset and look for a spark of pink light to its lower left.

Venus through a telescope looks a little wider than a half moon this week. This is how it looks in a typical astronomical telescope with south up.

Observers in the tropics and southern hemisphere, where Venus is much higher in the sky, will have the naked eye advantage.

On very rare occasions, Venus can occult or pass directly in front of Antares. This last happened on September 17, 525 B.C. and will happen again November 17, 2400. I’ll take tonight’s pass as the next best thing and imagine the rest.

If you have a small telescope, take a minute and point it at Venus. The planet has been steadily approaching Earth, growing in size and changing its phase (like the moon) over the past few months. This week it looks like a waxing moon a couple days past half.


15 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    It always makes me feel glad to see a bright object below Venus, whether star or planet. It is a little unusual. Very rare in May with 2 visible planets below Mercury. I missed most of that being in the Smoky Mountains over 1000 miles from home.

  2. Edward M. Boll

    Cold in the 40’s for highs the next 10 days. Also ”wet and windy”, like Laurel once said. After 2 days of rain, I stepped out this morning and the only thing I could see was the Moon.

  3. Giorgio Rizzarelli

    Venus-Antares seen and photographed at sea port. Antares was easily visible at naked eye even in the polluted city sky.

  4. Paula

    While I was observing Venus on the sky it was very noticeable the near star was bright and turning white to red. Amazing!

  5. So happy to find this post! I’m on vacation in Cayman Brac and we’ve been wondering for three days what that bright red star beneath Venus is. :)
    It’s still very visible here, with Venus visible before the sun has completely set, even with the full moon two nights ago drowning out many of the other stars. Being from the US, it’s nice to finally go somewhere and be able to see ten times the amount of stars I normally can.

    1. astrobob

      What a wonderful place to view the sky! Yes, Antares is still very easy to see from the tropics below Venus, and Venus is fairly high in the sky to boot!

  6. Sean

    can report that Antares is still readily visible naked-eye from mid-northern latitudes with a proper view and at the right time. found it tonight just under an hour past sunset. i found it at that time, no problem, once i had a low enough view. from my latitude (and yours too, Bob, i bet) at that time it appeared almost EXACTLY diagonally from (below and to the right of) Venus. I suspect that in 2 weeks it will be just about lost in solar glare, and may be challenging even next weekend. incidentally, Venus is visible (not easily but not too toughly either) naked-eye (assuming clear skies and a low view) about 45 minutes prior to sunset. i found it after about 20 seconds of scanning the ecliptical region moving E from where the sun had just set behind a house across the street from me. i had been attempting to do a solar observation with a filter and binoculars but waited just too late! anyway, hadn’t found Venus from my place at that time in about 2 months so i didn’t know EXACTLY where to look but it stood out readily enough.

    1. astrobob

      Thanks for your report Sean on Antares. Glad to know you can still find it. I’ve been away to southern latitudes and can report that Antares is well visible into the night after twilight’s end.

      1. Sean

        lucky u! i dream (figuratively) of someday having a chance to get some familiarity with S constellations/nebulae etc.; just to clarify, in my previous comment i meant ur latitude in MN. obviously.

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