If you live in a place with a clear view of the night sky, Venus will be easy to spot this week. The second planet from the sun, also known as the evening star, reaches peak brightness at the end of April. Here's what you need to know to make the most of the celestial event.
Why Is Venus So Bright?
As one of Earth's closest planetary neighbors, Venus is often visible without a telescope. In recent months, it's appeared over the western horizon every night around dusk. On April 27, it hit its greatest illuminated extent; that means that Venus's proximity to Earth, combined with the amount of light it reflected from the sun, made for optimum visibility when viewed from Earth.
During this event, Venus is nine times brighter than Jupiter and 20 times brighter than Sirius—the brightest true star in the night sky. The only celestial objects that outshine Venus are the sun and the moon. Venus also has its atmosphere to thank for its high visibility. The planet is surrounded by a reflective, permanent cloud layer made of sulfuric acid. An object's reflectivity level is called its bond albedo, and Venus has a bond albedo of .77, according to NASA. In comparison, the moon's is only .11.
How to See Venus in April
Venus's greatest illuminated extent may have just passed, but the planet will continue to shine especially brightly through the end of April. Look up tonight—Tuesday, April 28—around sunset to spot the evening star beaming in the west. It will appear roughly 40º over the horizon, or about halfway between the horizon and the point in the sky directly above your head. Twilight is the best time to spot it, but Venus will remain visible for hours until setting after midnight. If you miss the planet tonight, step outside any night this week to see it with your naked eye.