While all eyes were turned toward the east after sunset this week, to watch the beautiful full Harvest Moon rise over that horizon, some people remembered to turn around and watch the equally awesome sight of the brightest planet Venus near the golden planet Saturn in the west after sunset. Many thanks to EarthSky friends on Facebook and Google+ who posted photos!
Venus and Saturn are presently occupying the same binocular field of view and will continue to do so through September 21. Although Saturn shines as brilliantly as the brightest stars, Venus outshines Saturn by about 80 times.
Be sure to catch these two worlds as they come out at dusk and nightfall. As the Earth rotates eastward on its axis, Venus and Saturn will sink westward, to set at early evening at mid-northern latitudes. At more southerly latitudes, these two planets stay out later after dark.
Venus and Saturn are visible after sunset as seen from around the world. The star Zubenelgenubi is to the east of these planets as you stand gazing at them toward the western horizon. At our northerly latitudes, we may need binoculars to see Zubenelgenubi, since it’s now close to the sun’s glare. This star is one of the brightest stars in the constellation Libra the Scales.
The orange star Arcturus is to the west of the planets. It’s easier to spot than Zubenelgenubi because it’s not so close to the glare of sunset. Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Bootes the Herdsman.
Bottom line: While most of us watched the eastern sky this week, where the Harvest Moon was rising after sunset, a few people remembered to look westward to the planets Venus and Saturn. Thank you to all who shared photos!
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.