A Line of Planets Tonight

It was cloudy in Paradelle last night and again tonight. Too bad, because this was a good time to see the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars lining up.

This is true wherever you are in the world, so I hope for you it is a clear and dark night sky. the moon and Venus will appear close together in the night sky on 24 March.

Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Moon at 6am, before sunrise - labelled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Look west just after the sun has set and the two bright objects you see are Jupiter and Venus. Jupiter is below and closer to the horizon and will be setting shortly after sunset. Venus will be brighter and higher in the sky. Look above Venus and you will see the crescent moon. They will both be sitting in between the constellations of Pisces and Taurus.

If you have binoculars or a small telescope, you can point them at Jupiter to look for three of its four largest moons, called the Galilean moons. Callisto will be too close to the planet to see, but you might be able to make out Europa, Io, and Ganymede, which will appear extending in a line in this order.

Before We Destroyed Earth, We Destroyed Venus

hot planet Venus

I try to avoid conspiracy theories and fringe science, but every once and a while a story catches my attention and I read on past the crazy headline. Such was the case with a story that says “Humans Could Be From Venus: A theory about the destructive nature of humanity”

Even if your only knowledge of Venus comes from an elementary school science class, you would know that the planet is not for humans. These days we hear about Mars expeditions, not ones to Venus.

The atmospheric pressure on Venus is high enough to crush humans. The air is a toxic mix of sulfur and carbon dioxide. The temperatures on the surface is hundreds of degrees. So why would anyone think that human life might have been there at one time?

It is actually connected to the idea (and supported with money by people like billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk) of a future for the human race off this planet on Mars or beyond. Might the human race have done this move before?

NASA, in looking at our own climate data and worst-case scenarios for the future of Earth, has pondered whether Venus might have once been habitable and that its ecosystem was destroyed. Those scenarios about Earth’s future has a planet more like Venus.

The standard theory on Venus is that natural planetary causes or an event from space created the planet we know. Is it at all possible that humans or some form of ancient human ancestor millions of years ago destroyed the planet? It’s the greenhouse effect unchecked. More CO2 goes into the air and heat gets trapped, temperatures rise which causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere and that loop eventually destroys all life.

I doubt that is what happened. This is where the speculation gets pretty crazy in a way that is good for science-fiction plots but not for science non-fiction. Where is the evidence for this Venus theory? I don’t see any – but others do.

Following this Venus line of speculation leads us to ask how and why did humanity make a quite sudden evolutionary appearance on Earth relatively few thousands of years ago? The whole primate to primitive humans to fully homo sapiens has had scientists theorizing for centuries. Having us land here from Venus is an easy (too easy) explanation.

And then we get to all the ideas about things like Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids and agriculture which all arrive at roughly 3000BCE. The theory that has produced lots of books and movies has been that aliens visited Earth and helped humans leap into the future. But what if those “aliens” were us come from Venus?

Venus dayside
A more habitable looking Venus dayside in false color via PLANET-C Project Team/ EuroPlanet

Venus now is completely uninhabitable. It has a cloud cover so thick as to prevent us from getting a closer look at even the surface. That ambiguity allows the Venus-was-our-home theorists to wonder if under the clouds and surface there might be the remnants of an old civilization. We start out on one planet, flourish for a few thousand years, and eventually ruin the place and then move on to the next one.

It makes for an interesting story. It’s a cautionary tale about what we are doing – and maybe have already done before – to a planet’s environment.

I just wonder why those Venusians who were advanced enough to make it to Earth ended up being so primitive when they got here that they needed to start over. Didn’t they bring any of their advanced tools and records? And why did they look so primitive?

I think I’m seeing more credibility in the old aliens-helped-us theory from the 1950s. If that one is true, they should be arriving again pretty soon to move us off Earth to the next place.

Read the original article that started me thinking about all this at medium.com and read about a new study about the idea of human colonization on Mars.

Venus, Evening Star

Venus Pacific
Venus on a clear dark night over the Pacific Ocean

Venus is always out there but this month the planet has been especially bright. Venus reached its greatest illuminated extent yesterday and looked like the brightest possible “star.”

Venus is the second-brightest heavenly body in the night sky after the moon and it outshines all other planets and stars. Right now it is almost three times brighter than it was a few months ago.

Venus has been very prominent in the evening sky since last summer but that will end when June 2020 arrives. If it’s clear in your place, I recommend a few minutes outside the next few days at dusk and early evening to gaze at Venus and imagine.

In Paradelle, Venus rises by 6 a.m. and sets about 3 and a half hours after sunset. The “evening star” will be visible after sunset wherever. For an exact time in your location use this calculator at timeanddate.com.

Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and a Crescent Moon

If you were up early this morning you would have seen a lineup in the morning sky of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter on a line with the morning crescent moon. The lineup will be around for the next few mornings, so if there is a clear sky and you are up more than an hour before sunrise, it will be easy to spot.

Look east to the sunrise and the Moon will slide its way up past the three planets.

The planetary lineup – via earthsky.org

This morning the waning crescent moon was right next to Jupiter. (This is best viewed from North America.)

Saturn and Venus are east of Jupiter and the line they seem to all be on is the ecliptic, or Earth-sun plane. This is the plane on which the other planets in our solar system and the moon all orbit, so we view them as being on this line.

Hello and Goodbye, Venus

Venus and Earth size comparison

Tonight and Friday night are when Venus will be at its brightest. When we see the planet’s daytime/illuminated side is when it is bright and right now is when we see the maximum amount of it.

Venus is the third-brightest celestial body in Earth’s sky (after the Sun and Moon) and is often mistaken for a star.  Tonight you would see it low in the sky with Jupiter, Saturn and Mars above it in a fairly straight line.

When Venus passes between the Earth and Sun (October 26), it will leave the evening sky and move into our morning sky. That passing is known to astronomers as an inferior conjunction of Venus, after which its day side is facing away from us.

That’s No Star

Tonight, July 20, that bright “star” near the moon is no star. It is Jupiter.

Jupiter is shining more brightly than any star now (though Mars is even brighter). The moon and Jupiter are particularly close tonight and during this weekend.

Venus and Mars are the other starlike objects that outshine Jupiter in the evening sky, but you can tell the difference. Venus is in the western sky as darkness falls. Mars is in the southeast horizon at nightfall.  Jupiter will be near the moon for this weekend.