Venus, the Moon and a Star Named Spica
Venus graces the early western skies this summer as the ‘evening star’. This brilliant goddess of love dances with two celestial bodies in early September. Venus shines within one degree of Spica and pairs up with crescent moon.
Venus shines brightly due to her ability to reflect sunlight like a huge mirror. A very thick atmosphere traps heat from the sun causing the surface temperature of Venus to reach nearly 900 degrees F. A casual stargazer would never be able to see the surface of Venus because of these thick clouds.
In September of 1990, the space probe Magellan studied the surface of Venus in great detail. It showed that the planet is geologically alive with evidence of active volcanoes and lava flows. Huge shallow craters are produced by meteoroid impacts. Venus’s thick atmosphere slows down objects that pass through it, so meteors hit the surface with less force, creating shallower craters.
Observing Venus in the last week of August, a sky watcher might notice the planet and a star moving closer together. The star is Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo. Virgo represents the goddess of fertility, the earth and harvest.
Look in the west-southwest about 40 minutes after sunset. Venus and Spica are closest on August 31 at just less than one degree (less than your little finger at arm’s length). During the first week of September the two will be moving away from each other.
The new crescent moon joins the two goddesses beginning on Sunday, September 8th.Behold a spectacular sight on the night of Monday, September 8, when a sliver of the new moon shines just to the right of Venus and Spica. This will be the last time Venus and the moon make an appearance together until November 2003.
Enjoy the remaining early evenings of summer and look for the goddess of love and the goddess of the earth to pair up with a new moon. The three of them make a lovely evening triangle hanging in the southwestern sky just after sunset.
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