The triumph and excitement experienced by an explorer and discoverer can be ours -- small, yet profound -- by simply looking up to the sky in search of the first stars to appear after sunset.
These points of light are either faraway suns that are vastly larger than our own sun or, the brightest, are planets that are our neighbors in our own solar system. They all will be visible even where city lights and air pollution form a veil over the heavens that blocks out the light of dimmer stars.
Planet Venus is the brightest celestial object in Earth’s skies next to the moon and sun. It is a relatively small body, but it is closest to Earth of the other seven planets in the solar system and second from the sun. Venus is the hottest of the planets and its thick, acidic atmosphere is highly reflective, bouncing off most the sunlight that reaches it.
A clear view to the western horizon is of the essence if this diamond in the sky, also known as the Evening Star, is to be seen. Find it close above the skyline about half an hour after sunset. Sunset is at 7:43 tonight. Venus sets at 9:08. Watching Venus approach the horizon and disappear is a meditation while participating in the mystery of the movement of the cosmos. It ends with what is sensed as the extinguishing of a primeval flame.
Back to the lingering twilight, at about 8:20, the red-orange light of distant sun Arcturus penetrates the atmosphere high in the southwest. Then, blue-white Vega emerges at the top of the sky. Gazing overhead as the sky darkens, close to 8:30, our attention is rewarded by Altair and then Deneb. On a magnitude scale where the smaller the number the brighter the object, Venus is now
-3.99, Arcturus -0.07, Vega 0.00, Altair .75 and Deneb 1.25.
To contact Judy Isacoff go to: /www.naturesturn.org