It takes a lot of factors to make it possible to see a planet both at sunset and sunrise. Without going into too much detail, planets and the Moon are all located along the "ecliptic", the band in which the moon and planets all move each month and year in their journey through the Solar System. Because they are on this band, it is very difficult for an evening object (something you see just after sunset) to also be visible early the next morning before sunrise. Because of the unusual geometry of this particular alignment ("conjunction") of Venus, we have the possibility to see it twice in the same day from March 20th through the end of the month. You will need to invest some time to locate the extremely slender disk of Venus and you will be helped substantially using binoculars, but the sight should be impressive and it is one of those unique astronomy challenges that really gets me excited. You will want to use a detailed chart and the advice of a professional astronomer such as Tony Flanders of Sky & Telescope Magazine. Best of luck!
15 March 2009
Venus in the evening and the morning: a rare event indeed
During the month of March we will have a very rare opportunity to see our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, when it is at its closest approach to Earth and when it will be visible both in the morning and evening skies. This is indeed a rare event, something which happens every 8 years.