Venus is the second planet from the Sun and the brightest planet in the solar system, as seen from Earth. Venus also happens to be the third brightest body in our skies, after the Sun and the Moon. Early stargazers often referred to Venus as the Morning Star or the Evening Star, because of how bright it appears.
Everything you need to know about Venus:
Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun, orbiting the star from a distance of about 67 million miles (108 million km).
For comparison, Earth orbits the Sun from an average distance of about 93 million miles (149.6 million km).
Because the planet spins backwards, the Sun on Venus rises in the west and sets in the east.
Venus has no moons or rings of its own and its surface is a barren volcanic landscape of mountains and plateaus.
Surface temperatures on Venus reach a sweltering 465C (900F).
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Why is Venus so bright tonight?
Compared to the other planets in the solar system, Venus is relatively close to Earth.
But Venus also boasts the highest surface albedo of any of the other planets we can see from Earth.
Albedo is a measure of reflectiveness – when the Sun’s rays hit a planet, some of the light is absorbed and some of it is reflected into space.
According to EarthSky.org, Venus reflects about 70 percent of the light that hits it.
How to see Venus and Pleiades in conjunction?
Stargazers are in for a treat tonight (April 3) because Venus will cross paths with the star cluster Pleiades.
The cluster is best observed during January
The rare event happens once every eight years and was last seen in May 2012.
The Pleiades cluster, also known as Messier 45 (M45), is a beautiful collection of bright stars dotting the night skies.
Located about 445 light-years, Pleiades is visible to the naked eye.
Tonight, you will have a chance to see the two celestial bodies meet after sunset.
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According to the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, Venus will appear just to the left of the star Merope in Pleiades.
Look for the planet and cluster in the western skies, when viewed from London.
Although you might be able to catch a faint glimpse of Venus just before sunset, wait until after 8pm for the best results.
The cosmic duo will then be visible until after midnight when they dip below the horizon.
But do not worry, because you will have a chance to catch them again tomorrow.
What is the Pleiades star cluster?
Also known as the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades cluster can be found near the constellation of Taurus the Bull.
Although only six of its stars are visible to us on Earth, there are more than 1,000 in the cluster.
According to space agency NASA, the cluster has been observed since ancient times.
But it was Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who first laid eyes on it through a telescope.
NASA said: “It has an apparent magnitude of 1.6 and can be seen with the naked eye. The cluster is best observed during January.”
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