Venus has emerged out of the post-sunset misty mire to be seen soon after sunset as dazzling evening star. There’s the bonus too of Jupiter, the king of the planets, lying around 20° above Venus. Keep a close eye on the pair on any clear early evenings as the pair are converging on the sky for a very special coming together at the end of February into early March. That’s not the end of the observing story for this month though, as Neptune, the remote ice-giant that’s the farthest-lying planet in the Solar System, also lies very close to Venus.
It’s always a special sight when Venus is in the night sky, especially when it stands high enough for town and city dwellers to see and its brilliance is enhanced against an astronomically-dark sky, as is the case later this month.
How to observe
Venus shines brilliantly at close to magnitude –4, easily surpassing the brightness of all night-time astronomical objects except the Moon. By the end of civil twilight at about 5.40pm GMT, when the Sun has dipped 6° below the horizon, the second planet lies 15° high over the west-southwestern horizon. Venus sets at about 7.30pm. A small telescope can easily reveal Venus’ 89.7 per cent-illuminated gibbous disc.
Venus encounters remote Neptune on the early evenings of 14 and 15 February, when the pair are as close as 54’ and 16’, respectively. On 22 February, a young crescent moon lies between Venus and Jupiter, providing a fantastic astro-imaging opportunity.