Why the planet Venus is shining so bright in the Cumbrian night sky

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Venus shining brightly in the night sky
Venus shining brightly in the night sky

Have you wondered why the planet Venus currently seems to be shining unusually brightly in the night sky above Cumbria?

You're not imagining things. In fact, Venus is currently shining so bright, it can actually cast shadows.

Both Venus and Mars remain fairly close together on the sky’s dome throughout February 2017.

But brilliant Venus is brightening whereas modestly-bright Mars is dimming. By mid-month, Venus will outshine Mars by over 200 times.

As February 2017 opens, the waxing crescent moon shines above Venus and Mars in the western sky after sunset.

Venus rules over the evening sky while Jupiter lords over the morning sky.

You can test out Venus' ability to cast a shadow using a simple trick - but conditions have to be perfect.

  • Find a location where there is no light pollution - a remote part of Cumbria might be ideal
  • The time you try the trick has to tie in with the end of astronomical twilight - in the UK this is currently 7.30pm
  • Allowing at least 15 minutes for your eyes to become dark adapted, turn your back to Venus close to the time astronomical twilight ends and see if you can discern your shadow cast solely by the light of Venus on a west-facing fence or wall
  • You may need to use your peripheral vision to see it
  • While Venus remains visible until 9pm for much of the UK, you need to conduct this little experiment with Venus highest in the sky as soon as darkness falls.

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