Venus Valentina

Valentine’s morning (tomorrow) will be toward the last for seeing the two inner planets together as they stoop toward the Sun.


The arrows through the planets show their motion over 5 days, relative to the starry background.  Click or right-click to see the pictures larger.

Venus tried to kiss Mercury, but Mercury got away. Both are sliding down eastward; Venus was sliding faster, until the moment (Feb. 13 at 3 Universal Time) when the gap between them reached a minimum of 4 degrees. So this was an appulse (closest approach) without a conjunction, because from then on Mercury has increased its apparent speed, and the gap widens. Again a spatial diagram helps to make these relative movements clear:


Venus is still 29 degrees from the Sun, and about 6 degrees above the horizon at the time of our scene. Perhaps you can make a sketch at the telescope


but if your sketch looks like this you’re using the wrong eyepiece; her actual shape, far around the back of Sun, should be small and fat, almost a circle.


Detail from the Venus section of Astronomical Calendar 2016. The images at days 1, 11, and 21 of the months are exaggerated 480 times in size.


4 thoughts on “Venus Valentina”

  1. Great description of Venus’ and Mercury’s orbital positions and how they relate to the sky scene! It’s been too cold recently here in Virginia for me to go out and get a shot, but back on February 2, this picture shows the planets among the stars of the “teaspoon” asterism northeast of the larger Teapot (the faint stars above a line between Venus and Mercury are the bowl of the teaspoon):

    Whatever Venus whispered to Mercury, he must have liked it, because he’s getting brighter as he races away!

  2. While Venus’ crescent phases are obvious — dramatically beautiful! — in a telescope or even binoculars, the gibbous phases are much more difficult to resolve. To my eye she just looks like an extremely bright star, especially when low in a twilight sky. I suppose I could try tracking her into daylight when the brighter sky would decrease the contrast glare, but I’ve been getting my fill of planetary observation with Jupiter, and now Saturn!

    As for Mercury’s appulse with Venus, I think that Venus just whispered something in Mercury’s ear and sent him on an errand.

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