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Watch for Venus in July 2017

Are you a morning person? July 2017 presents a fine time to see the planet Venus beaming in front of the constellation Taurus the Bull. Wake up an hour or two before sunrise and look eastward.

Given clear skies, there’s no way you can miss Venus, the third-brightest celestial object after the sun and moon.

If you’re up while it’s still rather dark, Venus will draw your eye to the Bull’s two most prominent signposts: the bright star Aldebaran and the easy-to-see, dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster.

Because Venus is a planet and not a star, this world isn’t a permanent resident of Taurus. It’s only a temporary visitor. In fact, the word planet means “wanderer” because the ancients noticed that Venus and all the planets move relative to the fixed backdrop constellations of the zodiac.

You can notice this movement, too. July 2017 is a good time to try.

The ecliptic - the sun's yearly path through the constellations of the zodiac - passes through the constellation Taurus the Bull, to the north of the star Aldebaran and to the south of the Pleiades stars cluster. The sun shines in front of Taurus from about May 14 to June 21.

The ecliptic – the sun’s yearly path through the constellations of the zodiac – passes through the constellation Taurus the Bull, to the north of the star Aldebaran and to the south of the Pleiades stars cluster. The sun shines in front of Taurus from about May 14 to June 21.

If you watch Venus in the morning sky throughout July 2017, this planet’s change of position in front of the constellation Taurus will become obvious. Venus will pair up with Aldebaran by middle July. Then, as August comes along, Venus will depart from the constellation Taurus to enter the constellation Gemini.

In ancient times, astronomers charted the movement of Venus by noting its change of position relative to bright zodiacal stars, such as Aldebaran. Amazingly enough, the ancients found that Venus returns to the same place in front of the background stars in cycles of 8 years. So 8 years from now – in July 2025 – you can watch Venus follow nearly the same path in front of the constellation Taurus the Bull that this blazing planet will take in July 2017.

Venus, via Jamie Wyman on top of Mount Finlayson, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She wrote: “Can’t wait to bring my telescope up the mountain this summer!”

Bottom line: If you watch Venus throughout July 2017, you’ll easily notice its change of position in front of the constellation Taurus, with its bright star Aldebaran and noticeable Pleiades star cluster.

Visit EarthSky’s guide to the bright planets

Bruce McClure

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