It's surprising to see Venus arrive so far east of the northwestern position the brilliant planet held half a year ago. The wonder is that this diamond in the sky is now visible above landscapes where it could not be seen until recently.
Also known as the Evening Star, Venus is at its greatest eastern elongation tonight! As seen from Earth, the planet is furthest east in its current apparition. Look southwest soon after sundown, which is 5:48 this evening. Venus sets at 8:06.
Bear in mind that Eastern Standard Time (EST) officially begins at 2 a.m. this coming Sunday. Set clocks back one hour -- "fall back." Eastern Daylight Time resumes on Sunday, March 9, 2014, when clocks "spring ahead." This Sunday, the sun will set at 4:45, Venus at 7:07.
After you've spotted Venus and darkness gathers, scan to the right to find Arcturus: its flashing red-orange light can easily be mistaken for an airplane flying above the skyline. Arcturus is the second brightest star visible from the northern hemisphere. The Guardian of the Bear sets about half an hour before Venus. Notice the Big Dipper to the right, north of Arcturus.
A sure way to locate the red giant sun is to follow the arcing dipper handle about a handle length beyond its last star while thinking, "arc to Arcturus." The Big Dipper is a part of the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. According to legend, Arcturus is watching the bear.
At this time of Venus' greatest eastern elongation and increasing brilliance, a keen eye can find its light penetrating the atmosphere in broad daylight. Once the location of the planet has become familiar to you, practice searching it out before dusk, always careful to avoid looking at the sun. One stargazer's experience is at www.fourmilab.ch/images/ venus_daytime/
To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org