Venus, seen by so many cultures as the planet of love, will be appropriately brilliant this week, leading up to Valentine’s Day—so bright, in fact, that sky gazers may even see a shadow.
The luminous show begins in earnest on Sunday February 9, when Venus rises more than two hours before the sun, according to Astronomy.com. Its magnitude ranges from –4.5 all week to peak brilliance on February 15, with –4.9 (the lower the number, the brighter the light)—though the difference in brightness, the site assures us, is not discernable.
In fact if you’re near a high-contrast background such as freshly fallen snow—and these days, who isn’t—you might even see your shadow, Universetoday.com says.
And that’s not all! February 15 marks the day that Venus is at its brightest for the entire year. Although this second planet from the sun will be slightly farther away from Earth than earlier in the week, more of its disk will be exposed.
There are dangers to this brilliance, at least if you’re piloting an aircraft, as the hapless helmsman of an Air Canada flight found a few years ago when he sought to avoid what he thought was an imminent collision.
But for most of us, Venus’s visage will be looking down on the proverbial lovers for the entire month, and into March as it fades ever so slowly. The planet will still be bawdily blazing with –4.8 magnitude at February’s end, and just a few tenths dimmer during March, Universetoday.com says. During the second half of February, Venus will be at its highest point in the morning sky in the mid-northern latitudes, Astronomy.com says.
“Venus now appears higher and brighter in the morning sky than at any time since 2012,” Astronomy magazine senior editor Michael Bakich said on the site. “You don’t want to miss this opportunity because it won’t be as high again until it returns to the evening sky in early 2015.”