Astronomy Essentials

Venus superior conjunction: Venus is behind the sun today

Streamers of orange liight coming out from a dark circle, and a moving dot labeled Venus.
Venus started passing behind the sun yesterday, June 3. SOHO’s LASCO C2 captured Venus about to pass behind the sun (or, in this case, behind the spacecraft imagery equipment’s sun-occulter). The occultation of Venus behind the sun – the “anti-transit” – started around 14 UTC (9 a.m. central) on June 3 as seen by SOHO’s LASCO 2 imager. Venus takes many hours to go to its deepest point behind the sun. It’ll be most deeply behind the sun today, June 4. Meanwhile, the Venus superior conjunction – when it and the sun have the same “right ascension” – that is, the same east-west coordinate on the sky’s dome as viewed by us on Earth – happens at around 16 UTC on June 4. Image via SOHO.

Venus superior conjunction toda, June 4

Venus is the brightest planet we see. It orbits the sun one step closer than Earth. So it stays near the sun in our sky and is often called the morning “star” or the evening “star.” When it’s up, you can spot Venus easily. And it’ll catch your eye if it’s near a crescent moon. But where is Venus now? On June 3 it started passing directly behind the sun.

Before early June 2024, Venus spent over eight months as a dazzling morning “star.” It reached greatest elongation – its greatest apparent distance from the sun in our sky – on October 23, 2023. It hung low in the east before sunrise for many months, before slipping away in the morning sunlight in early April. For the past couple of months, it’s been too close to the sun to see. Venus is now traveling behind the sun as viewed from Earth. It’ll reach its superior conjunction – achieving the same east-west coordinate as the sun in our sky – at 16 UTC (11 a.m. central) today, June 4, 2024.

That is, at this 2024 superior conjunction, Venus is passing behind the sun as seen from Earth! See the image above.

Venus comes to a superior conjunction every 584 days. Usually, it passes above or below the sun in our sky. At every superior conjunction, Venus moves from our morning sky to our evening sky. We can’t see Venus now, at the beginning of June 2024. But it’ll emerge into our evening sky in mid- to late summer. At this time, it’ll appear as a bright light in the western evening twilight: the glittering evening “star.”

When will you see Venus in the evening? Possibly as early as mid-July, and certainly (assuming you have a clear western horizon) by late July or early August. It’ll be easier to spot from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere than for us in the north. For all of us, Venus will ascend gradually in the evening twilight throughout July and August 2024. Overall, at this evening apparition, it’ll spend about eight months as a brilliant light in the evening sky. It’ll disappear again, passing back into the sun’s glare (in front of the sun this time) in March 2025.

Diagram: Venus and Earth orbits, with sun in center, and Venus on opposite side from Earth.
Venus has been invisible in our sky, crossing the sky with the sun, for some weeks. Today, June 4, 2024, Venus will have the same right ascension – the same east-west coordinate in our sky – in our sky. We call that point a superior conjunction. Venus usually passes above or below the sun in our sky at superior conjunction. But at this 2024 superior conjunction of Venus, the planet will pass behind the sun as seen from Earth. Chart via EarthSky.

Venus behind the sun

During this superior conjunction of Venus, the planet won’t just pass near the sun in our sky. It’ll go briefly behind the sun as seen from Earth. That is, the sun will occult or pass in front of Venus. According to Guy Ottewell in his 2024 Astronomical Calendar:

It ascends through the ecliptic plane on June 6 [2024], so that at the superior conjunction – only a day and a half earlier – it is actually occulted by the sun.

When will you next see Venus?

Venus will emerge in the western evening twilight in mid- to late July. But, as seen from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, it’ll be setting less than an hour after the sun by month’s end. Luckily, Venus is the brightest planet, so you might be able to spot it low on the horizon. In mid- to late July, look for it about 30 minutes after sunset. It’s so bright, it’ll show even in the bright evening twilight.

In August, Venus will become easier to spot. It’ll be best in 2024 from October through the end of the year. Unfortunately for us in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumn months will feature the ecliptic – or path of the sun, moon and planets – making a narrow angle with the western evening horizon. So, around October, November and December, Venus’ distance from the sun will be mostly sideways with respect to the sun along our western horizon, not up above the sun.

But that will change as 2025 opens. Venus will reach greatest elongation – its greatest apparent distant from the sun – on February 4, 2025. And by then the ecliptic will be beginning to appear more perpendicular with respect to the sunset. So Venus will be respectably high in the sky, even from the northern half of Earth’s globe.

Be sure to watch for Venus in the weeks around February 15, 2025, when it’ll be heading for another greatest brilliancy in our sky.

It’ll disappear from view in the evening not long after that, going between the Earth and sun.

Photos of Venus

Sun blocked by dark circle in center, and two bright dots moving toward each other.
On May 22, 2024, LASCO C3 showed Jupiter and Venus getting closer for their planetary conjunction on May 23, 2024. This animation is from the perspective of the imagery equipment aboard the SOHO spacecraft. Venus was racing toward its conjunction with the sun, while Jupiter was racing away from the sun to ascend in the morning twilight by the beginning of June. Image via NOAA.
Line of crescents in the sky starting small and getting larger but thinner.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Vedant Pandey wrote: “I am Vedant Pandey, a 17-year-old amateur astrophotographer from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. I photographed Venus since it appeared in the evening sky in February 2023. And here are the phases of Venus, from waxing gibbous in February to its crescent phase in August, as seen by my telescope.” Wow! Thank you, Vedant!

Bottom line: Venus reaches superior conjunction – passing between the sun and Earth – at 16 UTC (11 a.m. CDT) today, June 4, 2024.

June 4, 2024
Astronomy Essentials

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