Venus Returns At Dusk In Conjunction With The Paper-Thin Moon

Find a clear view west and watch for Venus in conjunction with the day-old moon tonight — a sight risking being late to dinner for. Stellarium

Remember Venus? The last time most of us saw it was in late November low in the east at dawn. That’s also the same time Saturn made its last appearance at dusk in the west. That makes Venus the first bright planet to return to the evening sky for almost three months.  Sure feels longer.

Venus has been lurking near the western horizon after sunset for the past week or so, but it’s only now high enough to spot against the solar glow. You can begin looking for the planet about 20 minutes after sunset when it will be just 4-5° above the horizon to the left and above the lingering bright glow of the setting sun. Your sky to the west should be free of clouds or heavy haze.  I’d suggest keeping a pair of binoculars close. Find a spot with a clear view as far down to the horizon as possible and use the binoculars to sweep back and forth until you pick up the planet. It will look like a point of light punctuating the yellow-orange twilight glow.

Venus looks exactly like a tiny full moon (currently 99% illuminated) this month, a fun image to keep in your mind’s eye when you see it next to the extremely thin crescent moon tonight. The planet’s phase will gradually lessen over time until it becomes a thin crescent this fall. Stellarium

There may be an easier way. Tonight, the one-day-old lunar crescent floats just 2.5° (about a thumb held at arm’s length against the sky) to the planet’s upper left. You can first find the moon and then use it as your ticket to Venus. Since a slim moon is a beautiful sight in itself, the view in binoculars of the duo should be something wonderful.

Although only 9.5° from the sun tonight, Venus moves up and away from the bright twilight arch in the coming weeks, becoming more easily visible as winter melts into spring. During the first week of March, Mercury drops by for a visit. They’ll be closest — only 1° apart — on March 3 for the Americas.

Venus will be with us through spring, summer and early fall before dropping back to the western horizon in early October and transitioning to the morning sky. It never gets particularly high in the west during its 2018 appearance, but we’ll have no problem seeing it especially in spring and summer when its great brilliance practically hollers “look at me!”