You need to see the brightest planet at its most luminous this month
Venus will shine extra bright at its greatest elongation.
Sky enthusiasts are in luck this week as the brightest planet in the night skies gets a little extra shine as it moves further away from the Sun.
Due to its orbit around the Sun, Venus only reaches this position once or twice, sometimes zero times, during a year. Inverse breaks down how to catch this rare celestial opportunity.
What does Venus elongation mean?
It takes Venus 225 days to orbit the Sun.
As it travels around the star, the planet swings from the east to the west of the Sun as observed from our view on Earth.
When it reaches its closest distance from the star, the light from the Sun drowns out the planet. Therefore, the further away it is, the brighter the planet appears in the night sky and the closer it appears.
During a single year, Venus will reach this angular position once or twice a year as it zips past Earth in its orbit.
Where to look for Venus at greatest eastern elongation 2021
Throughout October, Venus lies low in the direction of the sunset for sky viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, and higher up for those in the Southern Hemisphere.
The planet can be spotted near the red star Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, according to EarthSky.
By the end of the month when it reaches greatest eastern elongation, Venus will rise higher in the western early evening sky in the Southern Hemisphere while laying low just above the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere.
If you have trouble spotting it, there are several smartphone apps that can help. AstroBackyard has a list to get you started.
What is the maximum elongation of Venus in degrees?
At its greatest eastern elongation, Venus will be 47 degrees east of the Sun from our point of view on Earth. The planet will appear just 12 degrees above the southwest horizon 45 minutes after sunset.
A degree is about the width of a pinkie finger from the standpoint of an observer, while 10 degrees is about the width of a closed fist. Venus will be an unusually bright object in the sky, thanks to its close proximity to Earth, so it should be fairly easy to spot.
Venus at greatest elongation 2022
The next time the planet Venus will swing to its furthest position from the Sun will be on March 20, 2022, when it will be at its greatest western elongation.