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Direction, Altitude & Visibility Duration of Venus after Sunset, August 2016 - March 2017:

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2016-17 Evening Apparition Data

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Star chart showing the paths of Venus, Mercury, Mars, Saturn and Neptune through the zodiac constellations for the latter part of Venus' evening apparition in 2016-17 (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

 

The Paths of Venus, Mercury, Mars and Saturn through the zodiac constellations during the latter part of Venus' evening apparition in 2016-17 (the earlier part of the planets' apparition is shown in the chart below). Positions for Venus, Mercury and Mars are plotted for 0 hrs Universal Time (UT) at 5-day intervals, while Saturn's position is plotted on the 1st day of each month. The path of Neptune is also shown for reference.

Both evening and morning apparitions of Mercury are included. Wherever a planet was too close to the Sun to view, the path is shown by a dashed line (- -). Hence Mercury's evening apparition ended around mid-December 2016 when it became lost from view in the dusk twilight. The planet was then unobservable for about two weeks before it re-emerged in the morning sky in early January 2017. Because Mercury is only ever seen under twilit conditions, many of the fainter stars shown in the planet's vicinity may not have been visible when the planet itself was observed.

For Venus, apparition data for the dates shown in bright white (at 10-day intervals) are included in the table below. The positions at which Venus and Mercury attained greatest elongation from the Sun are indicated by the letters 'GE', with the solar elongation angle in brackets. Eastern elongations apply for evening apparitions and Western elongations for morning apparitions (the elongation of Venus is Easterly throughout the chart coverage). The position at which Venus attained greatest brilliancy for this apparition (apparent magnitude = -4.5) is shown by the letters 'GB'. Note that both evening and morning apparitions of Mercury shown on the chart favoured Southern hemisphere observers (who should refer to the Southern hemisphere chart for a more appropriate orientation).

The faintest stars shown have an apparent magnitude of about +4.8. Printer-friendly versions of this chart are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views. Astronomical co-ordinates of Right Ascension (longitude, measured Eastwards in hrs:mins) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart.

Click here to see a 'clean' star map of the area (i.e. without planet paths); a printable version can be found here.

A planetary conjunction of Venus with Neptune took place on January 13th 2017, indicated on the chart by the symbol Conjunction symbol. For more details see the planetary conjunctions section below.

The Venus Evening Apparition of 2016 to 2017 by Martin J Powell

Following superior conjunction on June 6th 2016 (when it passed directly behind the Sun in North-eastern Taurus) Venus' 2016-17 apparition as an 'Evening Star' commenced as the planet emerged into the dusk sky in late June 2016. Observers at Equatorial latitudes were the first to see it, low down in the Western sky soon after sunset. Northern latitudes began to detect the planet from around early July (at 30 North), mid-July (40 North) and late July (50 North). At high Northern latitudes, low altitude and twilight delayed the first appearance of the planet until mid-November (at 60 North). Southern latitudes first detectedthe planet between late June (at 15 South) and early July (35- 45 South). Venus was moving in an South-easterly direction (direct or prograde) through the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, at this time, entering Cancer, the Crab, on July 10th 2016. The planet reached a solar elongation (angle measured from the Sun) of 10 East on July 12th, shining at an apparent magnitude of -3.8 at this time.

2 0 1 6  June- July

On July 16th the planet Mercury, at magnitude -1.0, passed 0.5 North of Venus in a planetary conjunction which was too close to the Sun to observe. A planetary conjunction occurs when two planets attain the same celestial longitude, such that they can often appear very close together in the night sky. Although this particular conjunction was not observable, there would be four observable planetary conjunctions involving Venus which would take place during its 2016-17 evening apparition.

From mid to late July the planet was pulling away from the Sun at a rate of 0.27 per day. At this early stage of the apparition, when seen through a telescope, the planet showed a broad gibbous shape (i.e. a little less than a full disk), its phase (the percentage of the illuminated portion of the disk) being around 96%. The planet's apparent diameter measured only a little over 10" across (i.e. 10 arcseconds, where 1" = 1/60th of an arcminute or 1/3600 of a degree). The planet's low altitude (angle above the horizon), its great distance from the Earth and its small apparent size made Venus a difficult object to observe telescopically at this time, with no detail being visible in its clouds.

Venus entered Leo, the Lion, on July 26th, attaining a solar elongation of 15 East of the Sun on July 31st. The planet passed South of the asterism (star pattern) known as the Sickle of Leo, at the Western end of the constellation, from July 31st through to August 7th.

2 0 1 6  August

Over a period of a month commencing August 4th, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter formed an interesting planetary grouping on the Leo-Virgo border, with the waxing crescent Moon joining the group from August 4th-6th. Jupiter, at magnitude -1.7, was now in the closing stage of its 2015-16 apparition, having spent most of the period in South-eastern Leo. Mercury was undergoing the second evening apparition of the year, there having been six full apparitions during 2016 (three in the morning and three in the evening).

On August 5th Venus passed 1.1 to the North of Leo's brightest star Regulus (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Leo or Alpha Leonis, mag. +1.4) then on August 21st passed just 24' (24 arcminutes, where 1' = 1/60th of a degree) South of the star Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Leo (Sigma Leonis, mag. +4.0), at the foot of the Lion's hind leg.

Around mid-August Venus was setting some 30 minutes after sunset at high-Northern latitudes, 45 minutes after sunset at mid-Northern latitudes, 1 hour after sunset at Equatorial and Tropical latitudes and 1 hours after sunset at mid-Southern latitudes.

At about 03 hours UT on August 22nd, the three planets formed a right-angled triangle, Jupiter and Venus being 5.9 apart and Jupiter and Mercury 4.0 apart. Venus and Mercury formed the longest side of the triangle, being 7.1 apart. The triangle was visible in dusk twilight from the South-eastern Pacific Ocean. The following day at around 18 hours UT, the three formed an isoscelene triangle, 6.5 wide at the base and 2.7 high. The apex of the triangle, occupied by Jupiter, pointed towards Virgo, the Virgin, which Venus entered on the following day (24th). This triangle was visible from locations within an arc extending from the central Mediterranean Sea through central and South-western Africa.

Date

Constellation

Apparent

Magnitude

Apparent

Diameter

(arcsecs)

View from

Earth

(0h UT)

(North up)

Distance (AU)*

Solar

Elongation

Illuminated

Phase

from Earth

from Sun

2016

Aug 5

Astrological symbol for Leo

Leo

-3.8

10".2

View of Venus from Earth on August 5th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.6348

0.7196

16E

96%

Aug 15

Astrological symbol for Leo

Leo

-3.8

10".4

View of Venus from Earth on August 15th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.5990

0.7206

19E

94%

Aug 25

Astrological symbol for Virgo

Vir

-3.8

10".7

View of Venus from Earth on August 25th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.5587

0.7218

22E

93%

Sep 4

Astrological symbol for Virgo

Vir

-3.8

11".0

View of Venus from Earth on September 4th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.5142

0.7231

24E

91%

Sep 14

Astrological symbol for Virgo

Vir

-3.8

11".4

View of Venus from Earth on September 14th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.4657

0.7245

27E

89%

Sep 24

Astrological symbol for Virgo

Vir

-3.8

11".8

View of Venus from Earth on September 24th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.4139

0.7258

29E

87%

Oct 4

Astrological symbol for Libra

Lib

-3.8

12".3

View of Venus from Earth on October 4th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.3590

0.7268

31E

85%

Oct 14

Astrological symbol for Libra

Lib

-3.8

12".8

View of Venus from Earth on October 14th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.3012

0.7276

34E

82%

Oct 24

Astrological symbol for Scorpius

Sco

-3.9

13".5

View of Venus from Earth on October 24th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.2408

0.7281

36E

80%

Nov 3

 

Oph

-3.9

14".2

View of Venus from Earth on November 3rd 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.1782

0.7281

38E

77%

Nov 13

Astrological symbol for Sagittarius

Sgr

-3.9

15".0

View of Venus from Earth on November 13th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.1132

0.7279

40E

74%

Nov 23

Astrological symbol for Sagittarius

Sgr

-4.0

16".0

View of Venus from Earth on November 23rd 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.0463

0.7272

42E

71%

Dec 3

Astrological symbol for Sagittarius

Sgr

-4.0

17".1

View of Venus from Earth on December 3rd 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.9775

0.7263

43E

68%

Dec 13

Astrological symbol for Capricornus

Cap

-4.1

18".4

View of Venus from Earth on December 13th 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.9070

0.7251

45E

64%

Dec 23

Astrological symbol for Capricornus

Cap

-4.1

20".0

View of Venus from Earth on December 23rd 2016 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.8350

0.7238

46E

61%

2017

Jan 2

Astrological symbol of Aquarius

Aqr

-4.2

22".0

View of Venus from Earth on January 2nd 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.7620

0.7224

47E

56%

Jan 12

Astrological symbol of Aquarius

Aqr

-4.3

24".3

View of Venus from Earth on January 12th 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6880

0.7211

47E

51%

Jan 22

Astrological symbol of Aquarius

Aqr

-4.4

27".3

View of Venus from Earth on January 22nd 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6140

0.7200

47E

46%

Feb 1

Astrological symbol for Pisces

Psc

-4.4

31".0

View of Venus from Earth on February 1st 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.5407

0.7191

46E

40%

Feb 11

Astrological symbol for Pisces

Psc

-4.5

35".7

View of Venus from Earth on February 11th 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.4695

0.7186

43E

32%

Feb 21

Astrological symbol for Pisces

Psc

-4.5

41".6

View of Venus from Earth on February 21st 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.4030

0.7184

38E

24%

Mar 3

Astrological symbol for Pisces

Psc

-4.4

48".6

View of Venus from Earth on March 3rd 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.3450

0.7186

31E

15%

Mar 13

Astrological symbol for Pisces

Psc

-4.2

55".4

View of Venus from Earth on March 13th 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.3018

0.7192

21E

6%

Mar 23

Astrological symbol for Pisces

Psc

-3.9

59".3

View of Venus from Earth on March 23rd 2017 at 0h UT (Image modified from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.2816

0.7201

9E

1%

* 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) = 149,597,870 kms (92,955,806 statute miles)

Table of selected data relating to the evening apparition of Venus during 2016-17. The data is listed at 10-day intervals, corresponding with the dates shown in bright white on the star maps (top of page). The data for the table was obtained from 'MegaStar', 'Redshift 5'  and 'SkyGazer Ephemeris' software and the Venusian disk images were derived from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4.

^ Back to Top of Page

The first two visible planetary conjunctions of the apparition took place on the very same day, both of them best seen from the Southern hemisphere. At 05 hours UT on August 27th, Venus (mag. -3.8) passed 5.2 North of Mercury (+0.9). Jupiter (-1.5) was just 0.7 away to the ESE of Venus, whilst the star Zavijah (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Vir or Beta Virginis, mag. +3.6) was also nearby.

Seventeen hours later, at 22 hours UT, Venus passed just 4' (0.06) North of Jupiter itself - the closest visible conjunction of these two planets since 1990, the next closest being in 2065. The very close conjunction of 2016 provided a visual treat for both naked-eye observers and binocular users alike. Telescope users could easily contain the pair within the field of view of a high-magnification eyepiece. As Venus passed Jupiter, it was moving at a rate of 1.23 per day against the background stars, which was about its fastest rate of motion for the whole apparition. For more details on this and the other Venus conjunctions of 2016-17, see the planetary conjunctions section below.

Soon after the Venus-Jupiter conjunction had taken place, at around 22 hours UT, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury formed a straight line measuring some 5.1 in length, orientated NNE-SSW (measured relative to celestial North). Zavijah narrowly missed inclusion in the line-up, being positioned just 5' (0.08) to the West of the line. The line-up was by no means equally spaced, Mercury being 5 away from Jupiter and its closely-aligned partner.

On August 30th at around 0620 UT, the trio formed an isoscelene triangle 5.1 high and 2.5 wide, the apex of the triangle (occupied by Mercury) this time pointing SSW towards the constellation of Hydra, the Water Snake. Mercury reached its Eastern stationary point on the same day.

Venus crossed the celestial equator (declination = 0) in a Southward direction on August 31st.

2 0 1 6  September

On September 2nd at 0520 UT Venus, Mercury and Jupiter formed a nice triangle in Western Virgo, with Jupiter at the apex. The two equal sides of the triangle (formed by Venus-Jupiter and Jupiter-Mercury) were 5.4 long. The waxing crescent Moon joined the group later that day. From around midnight UT on September 3rd, observers located in North-western South America, Southern Central America and the Caribbean were able to witness the Moon passing in front of Jupiter, blocking it from view, in an event known as a lunar occultation. Venus passed 0.4 South of the star Zaniah (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' Vir or Eta Virginis, mag. +3.8) at around 08 hours UT on the same day.

From around 1150 UT on September 3rd, observers located in North-eastern Mongolia (including Ulanbaatar) were able to see the only lunar occultation of Venus of the 2016-17 evening apparition. The event, which also involved Zaniah, was seen in twilight, taking place shortly before local Moonset. A visibility map and timings of this event can be found by following the link in the 'Moon near Venus dates' section below. The Moon remained in the vicinity of the planetary trio through to September 5th.

On September 8th Venus passed 2.1 South of the double star Porrima or Arich (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Vir or Gamma Virginis, mag. +3.5) then on September 14th it passed 1.2 South of the star Theta Virginis (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Vir, mag. +4.4). Three days later (17th) the planet passed 2.6 North of the constellation's brightest star Spica (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Vir or Alpha Virginis, mag. +1.0).

Venus crossed the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun, which the Moon and planets follow very closely) heading Southwards on September 27th, entering Libra, the Balance (or Scales) on September 30th.

By late September Venus' solar elongation had extended to 30 and its apparent size had increased slightly to 12". The apparent disk size would continue to increase as the apparition progressed. Telescopes showed a notably gibbous phase a little under 90% illuminated.

2 0 1 6  October

On October 6th, Venus passed 0.8 South of Libra's second-brightest star, the double star Zuben Elgenubi (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha'2 Lib or Alpha2 Librae, mag. +2.8) at the Western end of the constellation's identifiable four-sided figure. Three days later (9th) the planet passed 7.3 North of the star Brachium or Zuben Algubi (Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Lib or Sigma Librae, mag. +3.3) which is at the Southernmost point of the figure. On October 11th the planet passed 9.3 South of Zuben Elschemali (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Lib or Beta Librae, mag. +2.5), the Northernmost star of the figure.

On October 14th, Venus passed 3.0 South of the star 32 Librae (mag. +5.6), a faint star which the planet will occult during its morning apparition in December 2031. It is the Westernmost of an arc of three 5th-magnitude stars which are positioned South of Zuben Elakrab (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Lib or Gamma Librae, mag. +4.0). Zuben Elakrab is the Easternmost star of the Libra figure, and Venus passed 5.4 to the South of it on October 15th.

Venus entered Scorpius, the Scorpion, on October 17th, passing 0.8 North of the star Dschubba (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Sco or Delta Scorpii, mag. +2.2), marking the forehead of the Scorpion, on October 20th. The planet passed 2.2 South of the double-star Graffias (Greek lower-case letter 'beta'1 Sco or Beta-1 Scorpii, combined mag. +2.6) on October 21st. The two blue-white components (Greek lower-case letter 'beta'1 Sco and Greek lower-case letter 'beta'2 Sco) are magnitudes +2.6 and +4.9, separated by 13".7 and are easily seen in small telescopes. Beta-1 Scorpii is itself also double, having a tenth-magnitude companion positioned less than an arcsecond away, separable only in larger telescopes.

Later that same day, Venus passed about 1.4 South the two Omegan stars Jabhat al Akrab (Greek lower-case letter 'omega'1 Sco or Omega-1 Scorpii, mag. +3.9) and Omega-2 Scorpii (Greek lower-case letter 'omega'2 Sco, mag. +4.3), taking just 1 hours to traverse the longitudinal distance between them.

Situated a few degrees to the North-east of the two Omegan stars is the star Jabbah (Greek lower-case letter 'nu' Sco or Nu Scorpii, mag. +4.0). It is a quadruple star, i.e. it appears as a double-star through small telescopes, but larger telescopes reveal each of its component stars to be double. Venus passed 3.0 South of Jabbah on October 22nd.

At 18 hours UT on October 23rd, Venus passed just 16' (0.26) North of the globular cluster M80 (or NGC 6093), which has an integrated magnitude of +7.3. Like most of the brighter globulars, it appears as a faint, circular, fuzzy spot of light through binoculars under dark skies. The narrow separation means that the two objects could be contained within the eyepiece view of a wide-field, low-magnification ocular, whilst binocular users would see the planet and cluster appear in very close proximity. The very large magnitude difference between the two objects, however, meant that the pairing was difficult to view because of the glare produced by Venus.

Now approaching the Eastern border of Scorpius, the planet passed 2.7 North of the variable star Alniyat (Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Sco or Sigma Scorpii, mag. +2.9) on October 24th. Venus entered Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Bearer, the following day (25th) and 30 minutes later passed 3.5 North of the globular cluster M4 (NGC 6121), a 6th-magnitude cluster located across the border to the South in Scorpius. M4 is visible through binoculars under truly dark skies. Being so close to Scorpius' brightest star Antares (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Sco or Alpha Scorpii, mag. +1.3), it is easy to find and, at 20' in diameter, it is wonderfully resolved through telescopes. It is not a particularly concentrated cluster but has an eye-catching central 'bar' of faint stars running vertically through its centre.

Venus passed 3.1 North of Antares on October 26th. The star shines with an unmistakable orange-red hue, rivalling the colour of the planet Mars, after which the star is named. Mars itself was currently located some 40 away to the East, shining one whole magnitude brighter than Antares and moving slowly Eastwards through Sagittarius, the Archer.

On October 27th Venus passed 4.7 North of the star Tau Scorpii (Greek lower-case letter 'tau' Sco, mag. +2.7), which is positioned a short distance to the South-east of Antares. On October 30th the planet passed 10.2 North of the star Epsilon Scorpii (Greek lower-case letter 'epsilon' Sco, mag. +2.2) which, with a declination of -34.3, can only be seen from latitudes South of 55.7 North. Five hours later, Venus (mag. -3.9) passed 3.0 South of Saturn (mag. +0.6) in the third observable planetary conjunction of Venus' 2016-17 evening apparition. This was a relatively wide conjunction which was best seen from the Southern hemisphere; it could not be observed from higher Northern latitudes. Saturn had faded since reaching opposition in the previous June, although its wide-open rings continued to make it a nice telescopic sight.

Venus exited Chart 1 on October 31st, following which there was a 5-day 'gap' in chart coverage before the planet entered Chart 2 in early November, positioned in Eastern Ophiuchus.

2 0 1 6  November

On November 3rd Venus passed 1.7 North of the star 36 Ophiuchi (mag. +4.5), which the planet will occult during its evening apparition in October 2021. On November 5th the planet passed just 2'.5 (0.04) South of Ophiuchus' eighth-brightest star Theta Ophiuchi (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Oph, mag. +3.2), the brightest star in this Southern section of the constellation.

Up until this time, observers situated at higher Northern latitudes were having much difficulty observing Venus due to its low altitude after sunset and the long summer twilight. Here, the planet had been setting in twilight since the start of the apparition several months ago - even in early November, Venus was setting just 1 hour after sunset at latitude 60 North. Circumstances here were soon about to change, however, as the local dusk twilight receded and the planet began to increase in altitude at any given time after sunset. Elsewhere, the planet was setting 1 hours after sunset (at mid-Northern latitudes), 2 hours after sunset (at Northern Tropical latitudes), 2 hours after sunset (at Equatorial and Southern Tropical latitudes) and 3 hours after sunset (mid-Southern latitudes).

The rate at which Venus gained altitude (in relation to the local horizon at a given period after sunset) over the coming months was relatively fast in the Southern hemisphere but more gradual in the Northern hemisphere, the rate of increase being lesser as one moved further Northwards in latitude. At mid-Southern latitudes Venus' altitude at any given interval after sunset had been increasing at a rate of about 0.25 per day since the start of the apparition in early July. By contrast, at mid-Northern latitudes the rate of increase had been only half this amount since the start of the apparition in late July. During the 2016-17 evening apparition it was the Southern hemisphere which first saw Venus attain its highest point in the sky after sunset (in late Autumn), the Northern hemisphere witnessing this about a month or two later (in early Winter). Details of the planet's direction and altitude at 30 minutes after sunset for various latitudes are listed in the table below and they are also shown in the form of a horizon diagram.

Since the start of the apparition, observers at most latitudes had seen Venus drifting slowly Southwards along the horizon at any given interval after sunset. At mid-Southern latitudes in early November, the planet's Southward motion ceased, Venus appearing to 'pause' towards the WSW for several days. Hereafter, the planet would head Northwards along the horizon, its peak altitude being reached in early December (see horizon diagram for 30 South below).

Venus entered Sagittarius, the Archer, on November 9th. From November 12th-13th, the planet passed 1.2 South of the sixth-magnitude gaseous nebula labelled M8 (NGC 6523) and commonly called the Lagoon Nebula. With an apparent dimension of 90' by 40', Venus took 16 hours to traverse the apparent width of the nebula (from 20 hours UT on November 12th to 12 hours UT on the 13th).

Over the next few weeks Venus passed the numerous bright stars which define the shape of Sagittarius' Archer figure, along with six globular clusters, which are particularly numerous in this region of the night sky. From November 13th-25th the planet passed just to the North of the constellation's famous asterism, the Teapot. It is bounded by eight stars which, taken counter-clockwise, are: Nash, Kaus Meridionalis, Kaus Borealis, Phi Sagittarii, Nunki, Tau Sagittarii, Ascella and Kaus Australis. Venus' path on this occasion just clipped the top of the teapot.

On November 13th Venus passed 4.8 North of the star Nash or Al Nasl (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Sgr or Gamma Sagittarii, mag. +3.0), a name which is Arabic for 'point of the arrow'. At around 0030 UT on the following day (14th) the planet passed between two 8th-magnitude globular clusters, NGC 6544 (apparent diameter 8'.9) and NGC 6553 (8'.1). The clusters are separated in the night sky by 1 in a NNW-SSE orientation; both are only seen well in larger telescopes. The planet passed closer to NGC 6553 (the Southernmost of the two) by a distance ratio of 2:1.

Star chart showing the paths of Venus, Mercury, Mars and Saturn through the zodiac constellations for the earlier part of Venus' evening apparition in 2016-17 (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

The Paths of Venus, Mercury, Mars and Saturn through the zodiac constellations during the earlier part of Venus' evening apparition in 2016-17. The latter part of the planet's apparition appears in the star chart above. Positions of Venus, Mercury and Mars are plotted for 0 hrs Universal Time (UT) at 5-day intervals; Saturn's position is plotted on the 1st day of each month. For Venus, apparition data for the dates shown in bright white (at 10-day intervals) are included in the table above.

The paths of Venus and Jupiter came very close to each other in late August/early September 2016, in the region of the chart enclosed by a brown rectangle. For the sake of clarity, Jupiter's path is shown in a separate chart here (Northern hemisphere view) and here (Southern hemisphere view), with positions plotted on the 1st day of each month.

Both evening and morning apparitions of Mercury are included. Wherever a planet was too close to the Sun to view, the path is shown by a dashed line (- -). Hence Mercury's evening apparition drew to a close in early September 2016. It then became lost from view in the evening twilight as it headed towards inferior conjunction with the Sun. The planet then re-emerged in the dawn twilight in late September for a morning apparition which lasted into early October. Because Mercury is only ever seen in twilight, many of the fainter stars shown in the planet's vicinity may not have been visible when the planet itself was observed.

The positions at which Mercury and Venus attained greatest elongation from the Sun are indicated by the letters 'GE', with the solar elongation angle in brackets; it is Eastern (E) in the evening and Western (W) in the morning (the elongation of Venus is Easterly throughout the chart coverage). The July-August 2016 evening apparition of Mercury favoured Southern hemisphere observers whilst the morning apparition of September-October favoured Northern hemisphere observers (who should refer to the Southern hemisphere chart for a more appropriate orientation).

The faintest stars shown on the chart have an apparent magnitude of about +4.8. Printer-friendly versions of this chart are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views. Astronomical co-ordinates of Right Ascension (longitude, measured Eastwards in hrs:mins) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart.

Click here to see a 'clean' star map of the area (i.e. without planet paths); a printable version can be found here.

Planetary conjunctions of Venus with Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn took place during the period of the star chart coverage; these are indicated by the symbol Conjunction symbol. For more details see the planetary conjunctions section below.

Later that same day, at around 1430 UT, Venus attained its most Southerly point in the zodiac for the 2016-17 apparition, with a declination (symbol Greek lower-case letter 'delta') of -25 35' 26" (-25.59 in decimal form), positioned just North of the Archer's arrow. From all Earthly latitudes outside of the polar regions, Venus now set at its most Southerly point along the local horizon.

Venus' solar elongation reached 40 East of the Sun on November 13th. The planet had become an interesting telescopic object, with an apparent diameter of 15" and showing a gibbous, 75% illuminated phase. Its magnitude had brightened a fraction to -4.0.

At Equatorial latitudes, Venus' daily Southward motion along the horizon ceased in mid-November. At 30 minutes after sunset, Venus appeared to 'pause' in the WSW for several days. The planet headed Northwards along the horizon hereafter, reaching peak altitude in late December/early January. When the path of Venus in the evening sky is plotted for each day of the 2016-17 apparition at 30 minutes after sunset (see horizon diagrams below), the resulting profile at latitudes North of about 10 South are seen to have a broader and flatter peak. Hence during the 2016-17 evening apparition, Northern latitudes saw the planet higher in the sky for a longer period (ca. 1-2 months) than in the Southern hemisphere (ca. 2 weeks).

On November 16th Venus passed 4.2 North of the star Kaus Meridionalis (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Sgr or Delta Sagittarii, mag. +2.7) which marks the centre of the Archer's bow. The following day (17th) the planet passed 0.7 South of the 7th-magnitude globular cluster M28 (NGC 6626), which has an apparent diameter of 11'.2. Later that same day the planet passed just 7'.5 (0.12) South of the orange star Kaus Borealis (Greek lower-case letter 'lambda' Sgr or Lambda Sagittarii, mag. +2.8) which marks the top of the Archer's bow (and the top of the Teapot asterism). On November 18th Venus passed a mere 1'.6 (0.02) South of the faint, 9th-magnitude globular cluster NGC 6638. This is another difficult and concentrated globular, 5' in diameter, which is only well resolved in larger optical instruments. On November 19th the planet passed 1.5 South of the much brighter globular cluster M22 (NGC 6656) which is considered to be one of the finest globulars in the night sky. Its integrated magnitude is about +5.9 and it has an apparent diameter of 24'. It is just visible to the naked-eye from dark sites, is easily seen through binoculars and is a spectacular sight through telescopes.

The four stars which Venus passed over the next five days form the 'handle' of the Teapot. The planet passed 1.6 North of Phi Sagittarii (Greek lower-case letter 'phi' Sgr, mag. +3.1) on November 21st; 1.1 North of the constellation's second-brightest star Nunki (Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Sgr or Sigma Sagittarii, mag. +2.0) on November 22nd; 4.8 North of Ascella (Greek lower-case letter 'zeta' Sgr or Zeta Sagittarii, mag. +2.6) on November 24th and finally, 2.7 North of Tau Sagittarii (Greek lower-case letter 'tau' Sgr, mag. +3.3) on November 25th. Later the same day, Venus passed 3.8 South of the star Albaldah (Greek lower-case letter 'pi' Sgr or Pi Sagittarii, mag. +2.9), positioned at the top of the Archer's head, which Venus will occult during its morning apparition in 2035.

From mid to late November, observers at mid-Southern latitudes saw Venus at its highest and best for the 2016-17 apparition. At 35 South, some 30 minutes after sunset, Venus was placed 30 high in the Western sky, setting around 3 hours after the Sun.

On November 29th at around 18 hours UT, Venus was positioned at precisely 1.00 Astronomical Unit (AU) from the Earth, i.e. the same distance as the average distance of the Earth from the Sun (149.5 million kms or 92.9 million statute miles). The distance between Venus and the Earth was reducing at an average daily rate of about 1.03 million kms (641,000 statute miles) at this point in the apparition.

Now clear of the brighter stars of the Archer, Venus headed into the Eastern half of the constellation, passing 0.8 North of the star 52 Sagittarii (mag. +4.6) on November 30th.

2 0 1 6  December

On December 6th, the planet passed 0.8 South of M75 (NGC 6864), a distant and compact 8th-magnitude cluster. It has an apparent diameter of only 6' and lies just 0.3 from the Eastern border of Sagittarius.

At any given interval after sunset, observers at mid-Northern latitudes had seen Venus head Southwards along the horizon at a rate of about 0.5 per day since mid-July. In early December, observers at these latitudes saw Venus' Southward motion along the horizon cease in the South-west for several days, its rate of increase in altitude peaking at 0.2 per day at this point. The planet headed Northwards along the horizon hereafter, continuing through to the end of the apparition (see horizon diagram for 35 North below).

Whilst the visibility of Venus was improving in the Northern hemisphere, the situation was beginning to worsen in the Southern hemisphere. At mid-Southern latitudes, Venus' altitude above the local horizon at a given time after sunset began to fall away with each passing day, the planet having spent only around a fortnight at its highest altitude.

Venus entered Capricornus, the Sea-Goat, on December 7th. On December 9th the planet passed 9.5 South of the stars Prima Giedi (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha'1 Cap, or Alpha 1 Capricorni, mag. +4.2) and Secunda Giedi (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha'2 Cap or Alpha 2 Capricorni, mag. +3.6), collectively known as Al Giedi or Algedi. The pair are separated in the night sky by 6'.4 (0.1) and are an easy optical double, meaning that they appear to the naked-eye as a double star but they are not physically related (in this case being 700 light years and 108 light years distant, respectively). Through a telescope, the pair are both seen to be double, Prima Giedi having a 9th-magnitude companion (also an optical double) and Secunda Giedi having a genuine binary companion of 11th-magnitude. Larger telescopes reveal that this 11th-magnitude star is itself double.

Later on December 9th, Venus passed 7.0 South of the star Dabih (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Cap or Beta Capricorni, mag. +3.0), which is positioned to the SSE of Al Giedi. On December 19th the planet passed 1.5 South of Theta Capricorni (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Cap, mag. +4.0) in the centre of the constellation. On December 23rd the planet passed 0.6 South of the star Iota Capricorni (Greek lower-case letter 'iota' Cap, mag. +4.3), then 0.8 North of Nashira (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Cap or Gamma Capricorni, mag. +3.7) on December 27th. Finally, on December 28th Venus passed 1.0 North of the constellation's brightest star, the variable star Deneb Algiedi (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Cap or Delta Capricorni, mag. +2.9v) positioned at the tail-end of the Sea-Goat.

In mid-December, observers at higher Northern latitudes saw Venus' Southward motion along the horizon at a given period after sunset cease in the South-west for several days, its motion in azimuth now having fully transformed into a motion in altitude (see horizon diagram for 55 North below). The rate of increase in altitude peaked at 0.4 per day at this point. Just like at the other latitudes, Venus would head Northwards along the horizon hereafter but it would also cover a much greater span in azimuth through to the end of the apparition (ca. 93 over the course of 3 months, or about 0.9 per day). The planet's peak altitude would be reached in mid-February 2017 - considerably later than at all latitudes further South.

Around late December, observers at Southern Tropical latitudes saw Venus at its best for the 2016-17 evening apparition. Half an hour after sunset, the planet was positioned 34 above the Western horizon (a third of the way 'up the sky'), setting a little over 3 hours after the Sun.

The year 2016 ended with Venus entering Aquarius, the Water-Carrier, on December 31st.

2 0 1 7  January

On January 1st, Mars (mag. +0.9) and Neptune (+7.9) experienced their own planetary conjunction in central Aquarius, some 12 to the North-east of Venus. Since Neptune cannot be seen with the naked-eye, this event could only be seen with optical aid. The crescent Moon joined the pair on January 3rd, Neptune being occulted by the Moon from around 06 hours UT. The event was visible from the North-eastern Pacific Ocean (including the Hawaiian islands), where it was evening on January 2nd (local time). Soon after the occultation, the Moon moved North-eastward to a position mid-way between the two planets from around 0650 UT. Mars and Neptune were separated by 1.4, the Moon being offset Northwards from the line by just 0.2. Although this was not a naked-eye trio of Solar System bodies, it was nonetheless interesting because it was one of only a small number of trios involving two planets and the Moon which will take place in the coming decades, all of which are contained within an apparent diameter of just 2. Between 2017 and 2050 there are fifteen such trios, only seven of them involving the true naked-eye planets (for more details, refer to the link in the credits section below). Mars was itself occulted by the Moon from around 0800 UT on the same day, seen in darkness from the central Pacific Ocean.

In early January Venus was best seen from Equatorial latitudes. Here the planet stood 38 above the WSW horizon at 30 minutes after sunset, remaining visible for over 3 hours thereafter. From Equatorial latitudes, twilight is brief throughout the year, so the planet was mostly seen in its true brilliant splendor against a fully dark sky.

Venus passed 0.8 North of the star Iota Aquarii (Greek lower-case letter 'iota' Aqr, mag. +4.2) on January 2nd, then 4.1 South of the star Ancha (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Aqr or Theta Aquarii, mag. +4.1), positioned at the elbow of the Water-Carrier, on January 5th. Between December 6th and 9th, Venus passed about 10 South of the so-called 'Steering Wheel' asterism, Aquarius' best-known identifier.

On January 7th at around 11 hours UT, the distance between the Earth and Venus was the same as that between the Sun and Venus, at 0.7217 AU (107.9 million kms or 67.1 million miles). Seen from far above the Earth's North pole, the Earth, Venus and the Sun now formed an isoscelene triangle in space, with Venus positioned at the apex.

On January 12th at 1310 UT, Venus reached its greatest elongation from the Sun for this apparition (47.14 East) in central Aquarius. At this point, telescopes showed Venus' disk half-illuminated (phase = 0.50 or 50%) with an apparent diameter of 24".4 and shining at magnitude -4.3. Although the greatest elongation from the Sun took place on January 12th, Venus was in fact positioned at 47.1 elongation for a nine-day period from January 8th through to the 16th. The Earth, Venus and the Sun now formed a right-angled triangle in space, with Venus positioned at the 90 angle.

On greatest elongation day the planet set almost 5 hours after sunset at high-Northern latitudes, 4 hours after sunset at mid-Northern latitudes, 3 hours after sunset at Northern Tropical latitudes, 2 hours after sunset at Equatorial and Southern Tropical latitudes and 2 hours after sunset at mid-Southern latitudes. At 30 minutes after sunset the planet stood highest in the sky (39) when seen from Northern Tropical latitudes. In stark contrast, at 30 minutes after sunset Venus appeared just 16 above the horizon when seen from latitude 45 South.

For telescopic observers of Venus, a high placement of the planet in the sky after sunset - whether or not this takes place around greatest elongation day - is of little benefit. Because of the planet's glare when seen against a darkening sky, coupled with the Earth's troublesome atmospheric turbulence at low altitudes, most telescope users observe the planet in full daylight, when it is high above the horizon and more easily seen against a brighter sky. Of course, extreme caution must be taken when attempting to observe any of the planets in daylight and the Sun must be positioned at a safe angular distance from the planet and be fully shielded from view.

For a few days around greatest elongation, telescopic observers often attempt to determine the precise moment when the terminator (the line separating the light and dark sides of the planet) appears perfectly straight, essentially dividing Venus into two perfect halves. Solar System geometry suggests that this should occur on greatest elongation day, however it often does not and the precise reason for this is not fully understood. Observers often report the straight terminator several days earlier or later than the greatest elongation date (early in evening apparitions and late in morning apparitions). This anomaly is commonly known as Schrter's Effect.

On January 13th Venus (mag. -4.3) passed 0.4 North of Neptune (+7.9) in the fourth and final planetary conjunction of the planet's 2016-17 evening apparition. With Venus at its maximum elongation from the Sun, this was theoretically an ideally placed planetary conjunction, however the large brightness difference between the two planets meant that it was very difficult to observe.

With greatest elongation day having passed, the planet's phase changed from gibbous to crescentic, i.e. with a phase of less than 50%. Telescopically the next two months would prove most interesting as the crescent became more slender in appearance and enlarged with each passing day as the planet came closer to the Earth in space.

Venus passed 4'.6 (0.07) North of the star Lambda Aquarii (Greek lower-case letter 'lambda' Aqr, mag. +3.9) on January 14th before crossing the ecliptic Northwards on January 17th. The planet passed 1.5 North of Phi Aquarii (Greek lower-case letter 'phi' Aqr, mag. +4.2) on January 20th.

In mid-January, observers at Northern Tropical latitudes saw the 'Evening Star' attain its highest altitude after sunset for the 2016-17 apparition. At latitude 20 North Venus was positioned 39 high in the WSW at 30 minutes after sunset, setting almost 3 hours after the Sun. In fact, when considered in terms of the planet's visual impact and its ease of viewing, the 2016-17 evening apparition of Venus was best seen overall from Northern Tropical latitudes.

On January 23rd Venus entered Pisces, the Fishes, the final zodiacal constellation in which the planet was seen during the 2016-17 evening apparition. Venus was now pulling away Northwards from the ecliptic, increasing its angular distance from it with each passing day. Venus was 1 North of the ecliptic on January 26th (ecliptic latitude Greek lower-case letter 'beta' = +1.0), moving Northwards at a rate of about 0.15 in ecliptic latitude per day over the next few weeks. This Northward movement of the planet slightly improved the visibility of the planet after sunset from Northern hemisphere latitudes, but it increasingly worsened its visibility from Southern latitudes.

From January 22nd to 30th, Venus was positioned about 5 South of the Circlet of Pisces, located at the Western end of Pisces, the Fishes. The Circlet comprises six stars of fourth and fifth magnitude; under light-polluted conditions it is likely that some or all of them will not be seen with the naked-eye. Positioned a short distance away to the South-east of the Circlet is the Vernal Equinox point, where the Sun crosses the celestial equator (declination = 0) at the Vernal (Spring) equinox in the Northern hemisphere. It is also where the Right Ascension system of astronomical longitude originates (0h 0m 0s). The point is also referred to as the First Point of Aries and it is marked on the star chart by the Aries (Ram) symbol (Symbol of the 'First Point of Aries' or Vernal Equinox). Venus crossed the celestial equator heading Northwards on January 30th, positioned 4 to the West of the Vernal Equinox point.

Venus came to within 5.3 of Mars, positioned further to the East, on January 31st, but did not reach conjunction with it. Mars, a pale orange dot to the South-west of the Circlet, was now well into the final quarter of its 2015-17 apparition, having faded from a bright magnitude -2.0 in mid-May of 2016 to just +1.1 at the present time.

2 0 1 7  February

In early February, observers at mid-Northern latitudes saw the planet at its highest altitude after sunset for the 2016-17 apparition. At latitude 40 North, some 30 minutes after sunset, Venus was positioned a significant 35 high in the South-west, setting almost 4 hours after the Sun (see direction and altitude table below).

By the time Venus passed 4.3 South of the star Greek lower-case letter 'omega' Psc (Omega Piscium, mag. +4.0) on February 5th, it had moved almost 3 North of the ecliptic and by mid-February it was 4 North of it (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' = +4.0).

Around mid-February, observers at high Northern latitudes finally got their opportunity to see Venus at its highest altitude after sunset. At latitude 60 North some 30 minutes after sunset, the planet was positioned 29 above the South-western horizon, being visible for a significant 4-5 hours after sunset. Meanwhile, observers at higher-Southern latitudes began to have some difficulty viewing Venus as it sank into the dusk twilight, setting only an hour after the Sun. Here Venus' altitude above the Western horizon at a given period after sunset had been falling steadily since early December but it dropped away rapidly after mid-February, the planet falling vertically at a rate of about 0.5 per day for several days.

By the third week of February, Venus' apparent diameter had swollen to almost 40", some four times the size it had appeared back in July of 2016. With an illuminated crescentic phase of 25% the planet was a beautiful sight when seen through even the smallest of telescopes.

Venus attained its greatest brilliancy for this apparition (mag. -4.5) on February 18th. This occurs when its illuminated phase and its angular size combine to best visual effect. For the 2016-17 apparition, this took place when the planet was 27% illuminated (phase = 0.27), its angular diameter was 39".8 and its solar elongation was 40. Venus' daily North-eastward motion against the background stars was now slowing; on greatest elongation day on January 12th the planet was moving at a rate of about 1 per day, but it was now moving at about half of that rate. By late February Venus' direction of motion had become North-north-eastwards, its declination changing at a rate of ca. 0.2 per day.

Around February 20th, observers at mid-Southern latitudes saw Venus return to the same relative spot above the local horizon that it had been positioned back in mid-August of 2016 (11 high in the WNW at 30 minutes after sunset), the planet having appeared to loop around the Western cardinal point over the course of the last seven months (see horizon diagram for 30 South below).

2 0 1 7  March

Venus' Eastward motion ceased on March 2nd when it reached its Eastern stationary point, positioned 2.4 ESE of the star Lambda Piscis (Greek lower-case letter 'lambda' Psc, mag. +4.5), the most South-eastern star of the Circlet. Venus then started to move retrograde (East to West) and its solar elongation reduced more rapidly with each passing day.

By March 5th, Venus stood nearly 7 North of the ecliptic, and bi-daily observations of Venus became possible by observers at latitudes North of about 40 North. A bi-daily observation is when Venus can be observed at both dawn and dusk on the same day. This can only happen when the planet is sufficiently far North or South of the Sun in the days around inferior conjunction (when it is very close to the Sun and is normally not visible). From higher Northern latitudes, bi-daily observations in the 2016-17 apparition should have been possible through to inferior conjunction day itself (March 25th). For more details, refer to the bi-daily observations section of the Venus Conjunctions page.

Observers at Equatorial and Northerly latitudes saw Venus' altitude at a given period after sunset fall away rapidly from early March. At the Equator, the planet's altitude in relation to the local horizon was in a vertical drop by mid-March, falling from 10 high at 30 minutes after sunset on March 8th to just 4 high on March 13th - a fall of 1.2 per day (see horizon diagram for the Equator below). Here, on March 10th, Venus returned to the same relative spot above the local horizon that it was back in early August of 2016 (8 high in the WNW at 30 minutes after sunset). Mid-Northern latitudes saw a steep drop after the first week of March, the planet falling at a rate of about 1.3 per day through to mid-March. At 60 North latitude in early March, the planet was placed 23 high in the West at 30 minutes after sundown, but by mid-March it had fallen to 14 - an altitudinal drop of about 0.9 per day over the period. South of the Equator, Venus' apparent position above the local horizon at a given time after sunset was seen to 'backtrack' slightly in the closing days of the apparition, the planet heading a little Southwards along the horizon once more.

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As the apparition drew to a close from around mid-March, observers equipped with binoculars may have attempted to detect the tiny crescent of Venus soon after sunset as it languished low in the Western sky. Telescopes showed a large, thin crescent at this point, over 50" in diameter, the image greatly disturbed by the Earth's turbulent atmosphere and split into the rainbow colours by an effect called dispersion (an example of how dispersion appears through a telescope can be seen here).

As the Venusian crescent continued to enlarge it also became more slender, so that the dark (non-illuminated) side of the planet was well-displayed when seen from the Earth. With the aid of ultraviolet and infrared filters, telescopic observers now began their search for the mysterious and elusive Ashen Light, a faint glowing of the night side of Venus which has no clear explanation. The Ashen Light is considered to be caused either by the planet's surface glowing red hot (due to its extremely high surface temperature) or due to electrical activity in the planet's dense atmosphere. Intriguingly, reports of the Ashen Light have been rare in recent years, though it is difficult to say whether this is the result of improved observing equipment (i.e. eliminating contrast effects caused by poor optics) or a true reduction in activity of a genuine phenomenon.

On March 16th, Mercury passed 9.5 South of Venus in a planetary conjunction which, with Mercury being at a solar elongation of just 9, was too close to the Sun to observe.

Around this time, observers with exceptionally-good eyesight may have attempt to view the crescent of Venus with the naked-eye. Whilst this may seem extraordinary, the planet's apparent size of around 50" brought it very close to the generally-accepted resolution limit of the human eye, i.e. 1 arcminute (60"). Because the planet's solar elongation was now around 20 or less, glare was no longer a problem because the planet was now seen in bright twilight through to its setting, thus reducing the aforementioned ray-spread and allowing the crescent to be discerned more easily.

Whilst observers in high-Northern latitudes were still enjoying views of the planet through mid-March, Southern hemisphere observers had mostly lost sight of the planet by this time. Venus' solar elongation reduced to 15 East of the Sun on March 17th and to 10 East on March 22nd. Equatorial latitudes lost sight of Venus by about March 18th whilst the Northern Tropics lost the planet only a few days later. Thereafter, only observers North of about 40 North had any chance of catching a glimpse of Venus in the bright twilight, poised low down over the WNW horizon soon after sunset. Venus had now faded somewhat to magnitude -4.0 but it was still the brightest object in the dusk sky apart from the Moon.

Venus sped towards inferior conjunction - when it passed between the Earth and the Sun -  on March 25th 2017. At the moment of inferior conjunction, Venus was positioned central Pisces, some 8.3 North of the Sun's centre (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' = +8.3). After inferior conjunction, the planet headed into the morning sky. Soon after, Venus was sighted again from Southern latitudes, rising in the Eastern sky as a 'Morning Star' shortly before the Sun, heralding a new morning apparition which lasts through to November 2017.

 [Terms in yellow italics are explained in greater detail in an associated article describing planetary movements in the night sky.]

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Venus Conjunctions with other Planets in 2016-17

Planetary conjunctions between Venus and Jupiter are arguably the most spectacular to view, Venus always being the brighter of the two. The Venus-Jupiter conjunction of August 27th 2016 was the closest visible conjunction of these two planets since August 1990, and the closest until November 2065 (when Venus will pass in front of Jupiter in a very rare and difficult-to-see planetary occultation).

The 2016 conjunction was, however, poorly placed for Northern hemisphere observers and was not visible at all North of about 45 North latitude. Southern hemisphere viewers were able to see the two planets at relatively decent altitudes in the evening sky, although the situation was not ideal since the pair were only 22 away from the Sun. Observers between latitudes 10 South and 30 South saw the two planets at an altitude of about 17 above the Western horizon when Jupiter first appeared in the dusk twilight, the pair remaining visible for about 1 hours before setting. Further South the altitudes were lower but the visible period was longer, owing to the shallower setting angle of celestial bodies at latitudes which are closer to the poles. At 35 South the pair were 16 high when Jupiter became visible, whilst at 45 South they were 14 high, being visible towards the WNW for almost 1 hours in both cases. At these latitudes the conjunction was spectacularly seen against a fully dark sky for much of this time. By contrast, Northern Tropical latitudes saw the planets positioned just 9 above the Western horizon when Jupiter emerged into view, being visible for less than an hour. North of about latitude 35 North, the planets were seen in twilight through to setting.

In the August 2016 conjunction the planets were separated by just 4' (0.06) - three times closer than the famous double-star Mizar and Alcor in the 'handle' of the Big Dipper (Plough) - so that they could both be easily contained within the field of view of telescopes and binoculars. But more interestingly, the two planets were close to the minimum separation required in order for them to appear merged together by the naked-eye. Astronomy writer Fred Schaaf coined the term ray-spread to describe the apparent size that a bright planet's rays appear to subtend to the naked-eye when seen against a dark sky. He suggested that the ray-spreads of Venus and Jupiter subtend around 2' to 3' (0.03 to 0.05) to the average fully dark-adapted eye (Venus naturally having the wider spread). In order for them to begin to appear merged, the centres of the two planets would therefore need to be positioned less than about 2'.5 (0.04) apart; the August 2016 separation exceeds this figure by just 1'.5 (0.025). Schaaf suggests that close conjunctions such as this one provide ideal opportunities for observers to estimate the approximate ray-spreads of each planet.

Perhaps the next best planetary conjunction of the apparition was with Saturn (mag. +0.6) on October 30th. This relatively wide 3 conjunction in Ophiuchus was again best seen from the Southern hemisphere. It could not be observed from higher Northern latitudes; here it was Autumn (Fall), positioning the two planets low above the South-western horizon at dusk and therefore poorly placed for observation. At latitude 50 North, the pair were just 7 above the horizon as Saturn came into view in the dusk, being visible for less than an hour before setting. At Northern Tropical latitudes the pair were 22 high in the South-west as the ringed planet came into view, visible for almost 2 hours before setting. For the Northern hemisphere, conjunctions between Venus and Saturn are destined to be poorly placed (in both morning and evening skies) for at least a few years to come as Saturn slowly makes its way Eastwards through the Southern reaches of the zodiac.

In the Southern hemisphere the ecliptic presents a steep angle to the horizon after sunset at this time of year, placing the two planets higher in the sky and thus visible for longer. At Southern Tropical latitudes the pair were 29 high in the WSW when Saturn first appeared through the twilight, remaining visible for over 2 hours before setting. Further South the pair's altitude was less but they were visible for slightly longer. At 45 South, for example, the pair were 22 high in the Western sky as Saturn came into view, remaining visible for over 2 hours before setting.

Paradoxically, the Northern hemisphere's best-placed conjunction of the 2016-17 evening apparition was, for technical reasons, also one of the most difficult to view. On January 13th 2017 Venus had a close conjunction with Neptune, then at magnitude +7.9. Since Neptune is not a naked-eye planet, optical aid is always required to glimpse it as a pale-blue 'star'. Even though the solar elongation was very favourable on this occasion, taking place when Venus was at its maximum Easterly elongation from the Sun, another problem beckoned in that the glare caused by Venus (mag. -4.3) made it difficult to see faint Neptune beside it. Binocular observers in particular may have found it easier to position Venus just outside the binocular field of view so that Neptune could be more comfortably viewed.

A significant factor in determining whether a conjunction is 'poor', 'good' or 'very good' is the altitude that the fainter planet (in this case Neptune) is positioned when it first becomes visible in the fading dusk twilight. Neptune, being the faintest of all the planets, always requires more time to become visible in the twilight than the other planets and during this 'waiting time' its altitude will have fallen somewhat. On this occasion, Neptune required 2 hours to become visible after sunset at latitude 60 North, 1 hours at mid-Northern latitudes and about an hour at most latitudes further South.

The Venus-Neptune conjunction was well-placed for Northern hemisphere latitudes because the planets' positioning in North-eastern Aquarius placed the ecliptic at a relatively steep angle to the Western horizon after sunset. At mid-Northern latitudes the planets were placed around 25 above the South-western horizon as Neptune came into view in the dusk twilight, the conjunction remaining visible for 2 hours thereafter. Northern Tropical latitudes saw the pair at the highest altitude of the Northern hemisphere; here the pair were positioned 31 above the WSW horizon when Neptune was first glimpsed, remaining visible for about 2 hours before setting. The altitude fell away the further South one was located from the Northern Tropics: at 15 South latitude, for example, the planets were 25 high as Neptune becomes visible whilst at 35 South they were only 12 high.

Conjunctions between Venus and Mercury typically happen two or three times a year but many of them are too close to the Sun to observe; even when they are visible they are often difficult to see because of their narrow solar elongation. The only observable conjunction between the two during the 2016-17 evening apparition was a wide one, taking place on August 27th, only 16 hours before the aforementioned Venus-Jupiter conjunction. It was difficult to view North of the Equator and was not visible North of latitude 30 North. At the moment of conjunction, Jupiter was positioned less than a degree away from the pair and its proximity to Venus was sure to draw much greater attention.

The four planetary conjunctions with Venus which were viewable during the 2016-17 evening apparition are summarised in the table below.

Table showing the visible Venus conjunctions with other planets during the evening apparition of 2016-17 (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2014)

Venus conjunctions with other planets during the 2016-17 evening apparition The column headed 'UT' is the Universal Time (equivalent to GMT) of the conjunction (in hrs : mins). The separation (column 'Sep') is the angular distance between the two planets, measured relative to Venus, e.g. on 2016 Aug 27, Jupiter was positioned 0.1 South of Venus at the time shown. The 'Fav. Hem' column shows the Hemisphere in which the conjunction was best observed (Northern, Southern and/or Equatorial). The expression 'Not high N Lats' indicates that observers at latitudes further North than about 45N will most likely have found the conjunction difficult or impossible to observe because of low altitude and/or bright twilight.

In the 'When Visible' column, a distinction is made between Dawn/Morning visibility and Dusk/Evening visibility; the terms Dawn/Dusk refer specifically to the twilight period before sunrise/after sunset, whilst the terms Evening/Morning refer to the period after darkness falls/before twilight begins (some conjunctions take place in darkness, others do not, depending upon latitude). The 'Con' column shows the constellation in which the planets were positioned at the time of the conjunction.

To find the direction in which the conjunctions were seen on any of the dates in the table, note down the constellation in which the planets were located ('Con' column) on the required date and find the constellation's rising direction (for Dawn/Morning apparitions) or setting direction (for Dusk/Evening apparitions) for your particular latitude in the Rise-Set direction table.

The table is modified from another showing Venus conjunctions with other planets from 2015 to 2020 on the Venus Conjunctions page.

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Moon near Venus Dates, August 2016 to February 2017

The Moon is easy to find, and on one or two days in each month, it passes Venus in the sky. Use the following table to see on which dates the Moon passed near the planet between August 2016 and February 2017:

Date Range

(World)

Conjunction (Geocentric)

Solar Elong.

Moon Phase

Date & Time

Sep. & Dir.

2016

Aug 3/4

Aug 4, 06:16 UT

2.9 N

16E

Waxing Crescent

throughout

Sep 2/3*

Sep 3, 10h UT

1.3 S

24E

Oct 3/4

Oct 3, 17:28 UT

5.0 S

31E

Nov 2/3

Nov 3, 03h UT

7.3 S

38E

Dec 2/3

Dec 3, 10h UT

5.8 S

43E

2017

Jan 1/2

Jan 2, 09:19 UT

1.9 S

47E

Waxing Crescent

throughout

Jan 31/..

Jan 31, 14:33 UT

4.0 N

45E

..Feb 1

Feb 28/..

Feb 28, 19:58 UT

10.2 N

33E

..Mar 1

* A lunar occultation took place, visible in twilight from North-eastern Mongolia. See The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan website for visibility track and timings.

 

Moon near Venus dates for the evening apparition of 2016-17. The Date Range shows the range of dates worldwide (allowing for Time Zone differences across East and West hemispheres). Note that the dates, times and separations at conjunction (i.e. when the two bodies are at the same Right Ascension) are measured from the Earth's centre (geocentric) and not from the Earth's surface (times are Universal Time [UT], equivalent to GMT). The Sep. & Dir. column gives the angular distance (separation) and direction of the planet relative to the Moon, e.g. on October 3rd at 17:28 UT, Venus was positioned 5.0 South of the Moon's centre.

Because Venus never appears more than 47 from the Sun, the Moon always shows a crescent phase whenever it passes the planet in the sky: a waxing crescent during evening apparitions and a waning crescent during morning apparitions.

The Moon moves relatively quickly against the background stars (in an Eastward direction, at about its own angular width [0.5] each hour, or about 12.2 per day) and because it is relatively close to the Earth, an effect called parallax causes it to appear in a slightly different position (against the background stars) when seen from any two locations on the globe at any given instant; the further apart the locations, the greater the Moon's apparent displacement against the background stars. Therefore, for any given date and time listed in the table, the Moon may have appeared closer to Venus when seen from some locations than others. For this reason, the dates shown in the table should be used only for general guidance.

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Direction, Altitude & Visibility Duration of Venus after Sunset, August 2016 to March 2017

The following tables give the direction and altitude (angle above the horizon) of Venus at 30 minutes after sunset, together with the duration of visibility of the planet after sunset, for the 2016-17 evening apparition. An explanation of abbreviations in the tables is given in the box below. For the sake of convenience, the table is split into Northern and Southern hemisphere latitudes (the Equator is included in both tables to allow interpolation of the data for observers situated at Equatorial latitudes). The tables should prove sufficient to locate the planet in twilight, allowing telescope users to view the planet in comfort (because of Venus' brilliance, glare becomes a problem when the planet is seen through the eyepiece against a dark sky). Direction and Altitude diagrams are also provided below for intermediate latitudes of 55 North, 35 North, 30 South and the Equator.

The tables allow one to find the highest altitude in the sky which Venus attained for any given latitude during the 2016-17 evening apparition, and in which direction it was seen. For example, observers situated at latitude 30 North found the planet highest in the sky (at 30 minutes after sunset) in mid-January 2017, when it was seen at an altitude of 38 towards the West-South-west (WSW). The duration column shows that the planet was viewable for a little over 3 hours after sunset.

Northern Hemisphere Latitudes

Table showing direction & altitude (30 minutes after local sunset) and visibility duration of Venus for Northern hemisphere latitudes for the 2016-17 evening apparition (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

Direction & Altitude (30 minutes after local sunset) and Visibility Duration of Venus for Northern hemisphere latitudes and the Equator for the evening apparition of 2016-17. To find your latitude, visit the Heavens Above website, select your country and enter the name of your nearest town or city using the 'Town Search' facility.

The table column headings are as follows:

    Dir = compass direction of Venus,

    Alt = angular altitude (elevation) of Venus (degrees above the horizon; a negative value of Alt means Venus was below the horizon).

    Dur = the approximate duration of visibility of Venus after local sunset (in hrs:mins). An italicised duration means that Venus was seen under twilight conditions through to its setting, i.e. it was not seen against a truly dark sky (twilight in this case refers to nautical twilight, which ends when the Sun is more than 12 below the horizon). A hyphen (-) indicates that Venus set in daylight.

Note that the directions and altitudes refer to the planet's position at 30 minutes after local sunset. To find the time of local sunset at your own location, select your country/town from the drop-down menu at the Time and Date.com website. The approximate time at which Venus set can be found by adding the visibility duration on a particular date (column Dur) to the time of local sunset on the same date. To find the direction in which Venus set on any given date for a particular latitude, note down the constellation in which the planet was located on the required date (column headed Con) then find its setting direction for your latitude in the Rise-Set direction table.

Southern Hemisphere Latitudes

Table showing direction & altitude (30 minutes after local sunset) and visibility duration of Venus for Southern hemisphere latitudes for the 2016-17 evening apparition (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

Direction & Altitude (30 minutes after local sunset) and Visibility Duration of Venus for Southern hemisphere latitudes and the Equator for the evening apparition of 2016-17. The column headings are described under the Northern hemisphere table above.

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Direction & Altitude Diagrams (Horizon Diagrams) for the 2016-17 Evening Apparition

The following diagrams show an observer's Western horizon (from due South to due North) for latitudes of 55 North (a high-Northern latitude), 35 North (mid-Northern), the Equator and 30 South (mid-Southern). The path of Venus is plotted in the sky at 30 minutes after local sunset throughout the 2016-17 evening apparition with the planet's direction and altitude marked along the horizontal and vertical axes, respectively. Essentially, these diagrams show the same information as in the above look-up tables, but in an illustrative format, for the Equator and three intermediate latitudes.

For higher accuracy, the azimuth (the bearing measured clockwise from True North) is also shown along the direction axis. For each of the latitudes shown, the direction and altitude of Venus after sunset can be estimated for any part of the 2016-17 evening apparition by positioning your pointing device over each image, when an overlay grid will appear, marked at 10 intervals; the values can then be read off accordingly.

 

Path of Venus in the evening sky during 2016-17, seen from latitude 55 North (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

The Path of Venus in the Evening Sky (plotted for 30 mins after sunset) during 2016-17 for an observer at latitude 55 North.

Path of Venus in the evening sky during 2016-17, seen from latitude 35 North (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

The Path of Venus in the Evening Sky (plotted for 30 mins after sunset) during 2016-17 for an observer at latitude 35 North.

Path of Venus in the evening sky during 2016-17, seen from the Equator (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

The Path of Venus in the Evening Sky (plotted for 30 mins after sunset) during 2016-17 for an observer at the Equator (latitude 0).

Path of Venus in the evening sky during 2016-17, seen from latitude 30 South (Copyright Martin J Powell 2016)

The Path of Venus in the Evening Sky (plotted for 30 mins after sunset) during 2016-17 for an observer at latitude 30 South.

Paths of Venus in the Evening Sky (30 mins after sunset) for the 2016-17 evening apparition, as seen by observers at latitudes 55 North, 35 North, the Equator and 30 South. The letters GE refer to the planet's greatest elongation (followed in brackets by its angular distance from the Sun) and the letters GB refer to the planet's greatest brilliance point (followed in brackets by its apparent magnitude).

The azimuth (Az, along the bottom of each diagram) is the bearing measured clockwise from True North (where 0 = North, 90 = East, 180 = South, etc.). The altitude (Alt) is the angle measured vertically from the local horizon (the horizon itself is 0). Azimuth and altitude are co-ordinates which are used for high-accuracy tracking of objects across the sky; in astronomy it is mainly used for setting telescopes which are fitted with altazimuth mounts.

To determine the planet's position in the sky with higher accuracy, move your pointing device over each image (or click on the picture) to see an overlay grid marked at 10 intervals in azimuth and altitude (the dates are removed for clarity). For example, at latitude 35 North on February 1st 2017, at 30 minutes after sunset, Venus was found at azimuth = 240 (i.e. in the WSW) and altitude = 37.

Although the dates indicated in the above diagrams refer specifically to the period 2016-17, Venus has an 8-year cycle of apparitions such that its position in the evening sky in 2016-17 will repeat very closely in the evening sky of 2024-25. The author refers to this particular evening apparition as Apparition H1; for more details, see the accompanying article describing The Venus 8-year Cycle.

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Naked-eye Venus: Apparitions, Conjunctions and Elongations, 2010-2020

The Naked-eye appearance of Venus

Naked Eye Planet Index

Planetary Movements through the Zodiac

 

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Jupiter

Saturn

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto


 

Credits

 


Copyright  Martin J Powell  June 2016


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