Astronomy Essentials

Venus brightest for 2022 around now

Bright starlike object labeled Venus shining above treetops.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Dennis Chabot in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, captured this image of Venus on January 23, 2022. If you look toward a clear eastern horizon at dawn, you’ll easily see Venus, too, shining like a beacon above the treetops. Earlier this month, Venus passed between Earth and the sun (more or less), at inferior conjunction. At that time, it left the evening sky and entered the morning sky. Now Venus is super easy to spot. It’s bright … very bright. It’s heading toward another greatest brilliancy, centered on February 9.

Venus brightest around February 9

Venus is the brightest planet. But it’s blazingly bright in early 2022, at its brightest for this year. You can’t miss it! Look in the sunrise direction on any clear morning around now. When it’s this bright, Venus appears as an eerily eye-catching beacon, low in the dawn sky. It’s visible in bright morning twilight only, blazing out from the pink sky. Venus will reach its greatest illuminated extent in our sky on February 9, 2022. That’s when the lighted portion of the planet – the crescent Venus, seen through telescopes now – will cover its greatest area on our sky’s dome. So it’s around this time that Venus appears at greatest brilliancy to the eye.

After its peak brightness around February 9, Venus won’t appear this bright in our sky again until July, 2023.

Greatest brilliancy for Venus is a treat! Watch for Venus in the east before sunrise in the days ahead.

Venus’ reign in the morning sky started on January 9, 2022 when it passed between Earth and the sun in an event called inferior conjunction. It’ll remain a morning “star” – visible in the east before sunrise – until late September or early October of 2022. Then it’ll become too close to the sunrise to be visible from Earth. It’ll pass behind the sun from Earth on October 22, 2022. Astronomers call this event a “superior conjunction” of Venus.

EarthSky’s 2022 lunar calendars are available now! Guaranteed to sell out, so get one while you can. Makes a great gift!

Two slightly fuzzy whitish crescents on black background.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Did you think this was a crescent moon? It’s not. It’s a crescent Venus, captured by Sona Shahani Shukla in New Delhi, India, November 29, 2021, shortly before Venus reached greatest brilliancy in the evening sky around December 3, 2021. On February 9, 2022, Venus has another greatest brilliancy, this time in the morning sky.
Venus through binoculars: Blue chart with circular opening showing a crescent planet Venus. White text below.
Being an inner planet – inside the orbit of Earth – Venus (and Mercury) show phases, just like the moon. This is how Venus would look through your binoculars in early February, if you hold them steady (try bracing on a fence post, or sit down and brace them on your knees), or if you mount your binoculars on a tripod. Venus reached inferior conjunction – passing between us and the sun – on January 8-9, 2022. Now it’s still relatively near the sun along our line of sight from Earth, and its day side is turned mostly away from us. Voila! A crescent Venus. Chart via John Jardine Goss.

Why is Venus brightest?

Did you know that Venus shows phases, just as the moon does? But you’ll need a small telescope to view its changing phases.

Check out the diagram below to visualize Venus’ phases and its location relative to the sun and Earth. The planet appears smallest – covering the smallest area of sky – just after superior conjunction. When that happens, Venus is located at the far side of its orbit from us. It’s just peeking out after being behind or almost behind the sun as viewed from Earth. And its daylight side faces us. And it’s in the evening sky. Superior conjunction last happened on March 26, 2021. It’ll happen next on October 22, 2022.

After superior conjunction, as Venus continues in its orbit, the distance between Earth and Venus begins to decrease. Venus is pulling up behind Earth, on the inside track around the sun. The apparent disk of the planet grows larger but we see less of its daylight size. Through a telescope, we can see Venus wane in phase, going from gibbous, to half disk, and to a crescent.

Venus then passes in front, or nearly in front, of the sun at inferior conjunction. That’s the event that happened on January 9, 2022. At inferior conjunction – when Venus is passing between us and the sun, the planet’s night side is facing Earth’s direction. We can’t see Venus, in part because its day side is facing away from us and in part because the planet is traveling with the sun across the sky throughout the day. At inferior conjunction, Venus is lost in the sun’s glare.

8 positions of Venus around its orbit with phases shown as viewed from Earth.
The phases of Venus – and its locations at inferior and superior conjunction – as viewed from Earth. Adapted from an image by NASA/ Chmee2/ Wikimedia Commons.

Venus brightest at a crescent phase

It might surprise you to learn that Venus shines most brightly in our sky when displaying a crescent phase, approximately 25% illuminated. Venus’ greatest illuminated extent is when the lit part of the planet covers the largest area on the sky. For Venus, that moment occurs during its crescent phase, and that’s around when it appears brightest to us.

In the diagram above, note two points in Venus’ orbit called greatest elongation. That’s when the angle between Earth, Venus, and the sun is 90 degrees. It’s also when Venus appears at its highest, greatest distance from the sun on our sky’s dome. Around greatest elongation, we see Venus as approximately 50% illuminated, a half-Venus.

Why did we ask you to take note of the greatest elongations? Because Venus’ greatest illuminated extent in the evening sky – which happened in early December 2021 – always happens about a month after Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation. The last eastern elongation happened on October 29, 2021. Venus was brightest, at greatest illuminated extent, on December 3. After greatest illuminated extent, about another month passes before Venus sweeps to inferior conjunction, this time it was on January 9, 2022 when Venus officially left our evening sky, and entered our morning sky.

So perhaps it comes as no surprise that Venus is now having another greatest illuminated extent, this time in the morning sky. After all, as it speeds ahead of Earth in orbit, its phase will be increasing. About a month after inferior conjunction – on February 9, 2022, a month after the January 9 inferior conjunction – Venus is once more at greatest illuminated extent and at its brightest in the morning sky.

It’s time of greatest brilliancy comes just over a month before Venus will reach greatest western elongation – its greatest distance from the sunrise – on March 20, 2022.

Isn’t it great how orderly the heavens are? Enjoy Venus at its brightest! It’s a sight to see.

More photos and illustrations of Venus

A series of 14 images of Venus at different phases from a half-disk to crescent.
A series of photos of Venus taken between February 27 and June 8, 2004, showing the planet’s phases. Image via Statis Kalyvas/ ESO.
Diagram of orbits of Venus and Earth with sightlines from Earth to Venus at different times.
Earth and Venus orbit the sun counterclockwise as seen from the north side of the solar system. Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation in the evening sky about 72 days before inferior conjunction and its greatest western elongation in the morning sky about 72 days after inferior conjunction. Greatest illuminated extent for Venus comes midway between a greatest elongation and an inferior conjunction. Adapted from an image by Wmheric/ Wikimedia Commons.
Chart showing a maximum height of Venus at greatest elongation in March 2022 of about 25 degrees above the dawn horizon, for the Northern Hemisphere.
View larger. | Venus – the brightest planet – is brightest for all of 2022 in early February. Its morning elongation, when it’s farthest from the sunrise, will occur on March 20, 2022. For the Northern Hemisphere, the low angle of the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets – on spring mornings will keep Venus relatively low in the eastern predawn sky. But it will be very bright! Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2022 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.
Chart showing a maximum height of Venus at greatest elongation in March 2022 of about 45 degrees above the dawn horizon, for the Southern Hemisphere.
View larger. | For the Southern Hemisphere, the March 20, 2022 greatest elongation of Venus will place this dazzlingly bright planet high in the eastern predawn sky. That’s because March signals autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. And the autumn angle of the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets – is steep relative to the horizon on autumn mornings. Chart via Guy Ottewell’s 2022 Astronomical Calendar. Used with permission.

Bottom line: Venus was brightest in the evening sky around December 3, 2021. It’s brightest in the morning sky around February 9, 2022. After February 9, Venus will not be this bright again until July 2023.

Planet-observing is easy: Top tips here

EarthSky’s monthly planet guide: Visible planets and more

February 7, 2022
Astronomy Essentials

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