You Can See Venus Shining Bright, High in the Night Sky Wednesday Night

Venus hits its second and final elongation of the year, rising high the sky.

Venus sits near the Pleiades star cluster in April 2020. | Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Venus sits near the Pleiades star cluster in April 2020. | Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

There are almost endless reasons to get out and admire Venus. It's like seeing A Christmas Story for the first time. It's easy to see. You know where it's going to be. It's not the single most exciting thing on TV, but it's also far from the worst. 

Like the leg lamp, Venus sticks out. It's easy to spot in the night sky, where it's the brightest object this side of the moon. That means anytime it's in the sky -- almost every night -- is a good time to see the second planet from the sun. The morning of August 13 will be an especially good time, however, because it's the night when Venus reaches its greatest western elongation, per EarthSky.

An elongation is when the planet reaches the furthest point from the sun in its orbit. Due to that positioning, Venus is at its highest point in the morning sky on August 13. Earth's sister planet hits an elongation twice in 2020, but this is the last one of the year. As EarthSky noted in March, the planet's orbit is only "slightly eccentric (oblong)," so the distance from the sun during an elongation is always pretty close to the same, about 46 degrees from the sun. Though it'll be closer to 45 degrees west of the sun in August versus the 46.1 degrees east of the sun it was in March.

The planet won't be at its brightest point of the year, but it's always pretty bright (magnitude -4.3 now per In the Sky), and its positioning in the night sky will make it a great night to observe the planet in the hours before dawn. Venus will rise around 2:30am, according to Time and Date, but it won't hit the heights until a couple of hours later. 

If you've got a telescope, you should be able to clearly see that Venus is a crescent right now. Like the moon, the planet has phases as seen from Earth due to its position between your eyes and the sun. As a bonus, if you go out in the morning to see Venus, you're likely going to see a few Perseid meteors if you're in a place with dark skies. The sky is your oyster.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.
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