2016-2017: Venus, Evening Star


This appearance of Venus has ended.

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During its evening appearance in 2015, Venus appeared near bright stars and planets.

After a spectacular appearance in the morning sky, brilliant Venus moves into the evening sky during the summer of 2016.  Every 585 days it appears in the evening sky.

Venus – 16-17

On June 6, 2016, Venus passes on the far side of the sun in its orbit (superior conjunction) and slowly moves into the evening sky.  At superior conjunction the planet rises with the sun, lies in the south at noon, and sets with the sun.  Because of this Venus us invisible to us. By early July, it moves from the brilliant glare of the sun, setting in the northwestern sky about 45 minutes after sunset.  As the summer progresses, it rises higher in the sky each evening, setting later each night. Times are on the configuration diagrams to show the times of noon and midnight.  Additionally the morning side of the sky is distinguished from the evening side with the evening planets.  These times are referenced from our planet.  Notice that we never see Venus in the midnight sky.  (The midnight arrow never points at or goes through Venus.)

Challenge View: 5 Planets

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As Venus emerges from the sun, Mercury reaches its greatest angular separation from the sun.  While not a good appearance, the evening of August 4, 2016, presents another opportunity to view all five naked eye planets simultaneously.  Locate a clear horizon looking west.  Venus stands about 3 degrees above the western horizon.  While it is bright in the twilight, binoculars may be needed to first locate it.  A thin crescent moon appears 10 degrees to the upper left of Venus, with Mercury  2 degrees to the upper right of the Moon.  Jupiter is higher to the upper left of the moon (14 degrees).  Saturn and Mars in the southern sky, near the star Antares.

Venus:  Evening Star, the Chart

This chart shows the setting times of Venus ,the moon, planets, and stars compared to sunset during the appearance of Venus in the evening sky during 2016-2017. Chart calculated from data by the U.S. Naval Observatory.

This chart shows the setting time of Venus compared to the sun during its evening appearance.  The setting time differences of other planets and bright stars are included.  For a detail discussion of this chart, see this article.

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On the evening of August 27, Venus moves past Jupiter. This is another Epoch Venus-Jupiter Conjunction.  On this evening the pair is only  7′ (seven arc minutes) apart.  This is three times closer than the June 2015 conjunction.   The planets set about 1 hour after sunset and are low in the western sky.  Find a clear horizon to locate the planetary pair.

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The June 30, 2015, Epoch Venus-Jupiter Conjunction

After the Jupiter conjunction, Venus continues to climb higher in the western sky, setting at the end of astronomical twilight on October 20.  On the way it passes Spica with the same setting time on September 13 and a close passing (2 degrees, 25 minutes) on September 18.  The reason for the difference is described in the link associated with the setting chart above.

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There is an interesting pairing of Venus and the moon on October 3.   The  3-day-old day crescent moon stands about 4 degrees above Venus.  Notice on the setting chart above that Venus and the moon set about the same time on October 2, but the pair is separated by nearly 10 degrees.  They both stand at the same altitude (not to be confused with the elevation above the ground of an airplane) in the sky, but they are closer on the next night.

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When Venus sets at the end of twilight, it leaves the western sky at the same time as Antares.  The pair is closest (3 degrees, 10 minutes) on October 26.ven_sat_ant_161029

Several nights later (November 2), Venus and Saturn set at the same time, but they are closest (3 degrees) on October 29.

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Venus continues to appear higher in the sky each night at the same time, setting later each night.  On January 12, 2017, it reaches its greatest angular separation from the sun (47 degrees), setting nearly 3.5 hours after sunset.  This is shown as GEE (greatest elongation east) on the setting chart above.  The planet is now rapidly catching our planet on its inside orbital path.  The planet continues to set later each evening reaching nearly 4 hours at the end of January 2017.  The planet begins a rapid descent toward the sun, setting about 20 minutes earlier each week during February 2017.

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Venus and Mars do not pass each other during this evening appearance of Venus.  They appear close together during the  the first several weeks of the new year (2017).  On February 3 they are are their closest (5 degrees, 24 minutes) and Venus outshines Mars nearly 200 times.

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On February  18, 2017 Venus reaches its greatest brightness (GB on the setting chart above), a brilliant spectacle in the western sky after sunset,setting nearly 3 hours, 30 minutes after the sun.  During the next month, Venus quickly sets earlier each night.  On March 14, it sets at the end of evening twilight.

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On March 18, Venus passes Mercury as the sun’s closest planet emerges from its superior conjunction.  During these times, Mercury is more difficult to see because it is not as bright as when it is closer to our planet.  This event may require binoculars to see Mercury.   The sky is very bright and Venus is just 7 days before its inferior conjunction and its reappearance in the morning sky.

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On March 25, Venus reaches its inferior conjunction, passing between the sun and Earth, completing its evening appearance.

While the charts above show the events of this evening appearance, this page will be updated with photographic images as weather permits.

Events as noted above:

  • Venus and Regulus, August 8, 2016
  • Venus and Jupiter, August 27, 2016

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  • Venus and Spica, September 18, 2016
  • Venus and Antares, October 26, 2016
  • Venus and Saturn, October 29, 2016
  • Venus and Mars, February 3, 2017

Close appearances with the moon

  • September 2, 2016 (5d, 26m)

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  • October 3, 2016 (4d, 20m)

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  • November 2, 2016 (6d, 52m)

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  • December 2, 2016 (7d, 50m)
  • January 1, 2017 (5d, 9m)
  • January 31, 2017 (5d, 17m)
  • February 28, 2017 (10d, 21m)
  • March 1, 2017 (15d, 51m)
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