If you have noticed the bright object in the south- western evening sky, and have wondered whether it is possible that the planet Venus could shine much brighter than it has in the past in the same position, here is some good news: you are not crazy!
Venus comes into its closest approach to earth, the so-called inferior conjunction, about every 583 days, when it is exactly between the sun and Earth (this year it’s March 25th). At this point, it can’t be seen, it could be compared to a new moon position.
The greatest brilliancy of Venus occurs when the planet lies at an elongation of 39°, approximately 36 days before and after inferiore conjunction. So, we get the same view every 583 days, therefore the proximity is not a novelty, but rather a common event.
When we consult the 2000 edition of Cambridge Planetary Handbook, we read greatest brilliancy for Venus is -4.4.
According to the German Standard Encyclopedia „Brockhaus“ 2006, the maximum brilliancy of Venus is only -4 mag.
However, according to Astronomy Now, Venus currently shines with a brilliancy of magnitude of -4.8 (note the lower the value, the higher the brightness perceived from Earth).
Thus, according to these official sources, Venus is currently seen shining between 10 and 20 % brighter than it should in its brightest position.
Why Venus has been so dominant in the southern evening sky for over two months now, since early January, 2017, I couldn’t say. Venus will be in inferior conjunction on 25th of March 2017. Therefore, the date of the maximum brightness was already on February 18th (36 days before).
Thus far I have not seen any compelling evidence that what we are looking at is not Venus.
In summery, the values given above do not prove that Venus has increased in brilliancy, but they do prove that media and government organization’s statements contradict their own data, whenever they claim that Venus’s current brilliancy is normal. So, whenever the mainstream media try to explain to people that they are seeing the exact same bright object that they see every year or so, and that they just can’t remember, it’s fake news, proven by their own source material.
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