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November 24, 2012

Bright light on eastern horizon is planet Venus

Look about 12 degrees above the eastern horizon at 6 a.m. and you will see an unusually bright-looking star. There is no other object in that area of the sky that is even close to being as bright.

Look about 12 degrees above the eastern horizon at 6 a.m. and you will see an unusually bright-looking star. There is no other object in that area of the sky that is even close to being as bright.

The celestial object you are looking at is not a star at all, but the planet Venus. It is the second planet in order of its distance from the sun. The earth is the third planet from the sun.

Through a small telescope, Venus now looks like a gibbous moon and is about 88 percent illuminated. Less than 2 degrees away from Venus from our line of sight here on earth is the planet Saturn. Now is an excellent opportunity to see Saturn and its magnificent ring system.

However, a telescope at a low power of at least 40 times is needed to see the ring system. With the unaided eye, it will be a little difficult to see the planet Saturn near Venus because Venus is about 70 times brighter than Saturn. A pair of binoculars, however, will show the pair much better.

The two planets continue to approach closer to each other, and on Tuesday morning, they will be less than 1 degree apart.

Saturn is the sixth planet in order of its distance from the sun. It is also the second-largest planet in our solar system, with an equatorial diameter of approximately 75,000 miles.

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