Shortly after the sun goes down, look in the southwest – or in the general direction of sunset – to see the dazzling planet Venus lighting up the twilight dusk. All through December 2013, at or near the time that Venus sets in the west, the king planet Jupiter will be rising in the east. At mid-northern latitudes, Venus follows the sun beneath the horizon this evening somewhere around 7 to 8 p.m. local time.
Venus will be hard to miss because it’s the third-brightest body to adorn the heavens, after the sun and moon. In fact, this blazing beauty has even been known to cast a shadow on a dark night. However, the king planet Jupiter is no slouch either, for this brilliant world rates as the fourth-brightest celestial object, after the sun, moon and Venus.
Venus is highest up at sunset, and then sinks downward as dusk turns into nighttime. Be sure to keep a close eye on Venus, as it comes out after sunset throughout the month. It’ll set at early-to-mid evening in early December, but at late dusk or nightfall by the end of the month. Venus will disappear from the evening sky entirely in early January 2014.
After Jupiter rises in December 2013, it’ll be out for the rest of the night. It’ll reach its high point for the night at roughly 2:30 a.m. in early December and just after midnight by the month’s end. Look for Jupiter to rise earlier and earlier after sunset as the days go by. By early January 2014, Jupiter will rise at sunset, to grace the sky from dusk till dawn.
Watch these two brilliant planets – Venus and Jupiter – as they face off in the early evening sky all month long. If you have a level horizon, you’ll see the two planets opposite of one another in the same sky. As Venus hovers over the west-southwest horizon at nightfall or early evening, turn around to see Jupiter low in the east-northeast sky.