This is how to spot Venus in the night sky this month - and why the planet is so bright in April
Venus, which is the brightest planet in the solar system, can be spotted in the night sky every night this month.
If you want to catch a glimpse of this magnificent planet out of your bedroom window, then this is how to do so.
What is Venus?
The planet Venus is similar in structure and size to Earth, but spins slowly in the opposite direction to most other planets.
Its thick atmosphere traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect, which makes it the hottest planet in our solar system. Its surface temperatures are hot enough to melt lead.
One day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days due to Venus spinning backwards, with its sun rising in the west and setting in the east, explains Nasa.
Nasa adds: “Venus' solid surface is a volcanic landscape covered with extensive plains featuring high volcanic mountains and vast ridged plateaus.
“While the surface rotates slowly, the winds blow at hurricane force, sending clouds completely around the planet every five days.”
How can I see Venus?
The planet, which is the second from the Sun, is usually visible after sunset without telescopes or binoculars, although binoculars will greatly enhance the view.
To find the location of Venus you can use some form of software or you can train your telescope yourself.
When you trace the path of the Sun across the sky, its path is a line called the ecliptic, which changes slightly throughout the year.
Most planets are most easily observed during an elongation. Due to them being inside the Earth’s orbits their positions are never very far from the position of the Sun.
When a planet is at elongation, it is furthest from the Sun as viewed from Earth, so it’s view is best at that point.It is typically known as the evening star, because it rises high above the western horizon each night.
Venus can also sometimes be seen during the day.
The planet is set to dominate the western skies all of April, shining particularly brightly after sunset and setting just before midnight.
Venus is the only bright planet to light up April evenings for the entire month.
From the Northern Hemisphere Venus will be visible in the evening sky all through the rest of April and into the month of May, according to Astronomy Now.
It is expected to reach its brightest on 28 April.
Which stars surround Venus?
To the far right of Venus is the bright star Betelgeuse. The Pleiades cluster is to the southeast of Venus.
The Pleiades are an open cluster of stars in the constellation of Taurus that are 100 million years old. The Pleiades have seven or eight really bright stars, but more than 100 in total.
Venus passes very close to the Pleiades Star Cluster during the opening days of April. It then stays above the horizon until almost midnight, dropping down the western sky side-by-side with a crescent moon on April 26.
However, unlike stars, planets don't twinkle. Stars are so distant in the night sky that they appear as pinpoints of light, even when viewed through a telescope.
Why is Venus so bright?
Astronomy Now explains, “Despite only a small percentage of the visible part of Venus being illuminated, it can still shine so brightly because its atmosphere is composed of thick clouds of carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid that completely enshroud Venus and which are incredibly reflective.
“Venus has an albedo of 0.7, which means that it reflects about 70 per cent of the sunlight that falls on it.”