Wow! Venus Dazzles in Morning Sky

I had to get up at 4 a.m. the other day to make sure my visiting father-in-law got in a taxi to head to the airport. I'm standing on the street and, Wow!, I see this brilliant beacon hanging low in the eastern sky.

Now I've written about Venus a lot, how it can startle people and cause them to call local law enforcement and report UFO sightings. So my first thought was, "Is that maybe Venus?"

Then I watched it slowly rise compared to a nearby rooftop, and reassured myself that it was just an airplane on a certain angle, coming at me and appearing to rise ever so slightly.

But there this brilliant light hung, not getting any brighter or dimmer, moving so slowly you could only perceive the motion in relation to a reference building or tree.

I don't keep track of where Venus is at all times, but then I recalled that it had left the evening sky, and that always means it'll soon be in the morning sky, as Venus orbits the sun inside our own orbit and so, from our perspective, is constantly darting out on the either side of the sun and never straying too far from it.

Yes, I realized, it was Venus. Truly dazzling, a world so close to ours that it outshines every star in the sky, save the sun.

What I didn't know, until today, is that Mars is hanging out nearby. Check out Joe Rao's article about the Double Planet setup. Then set your alarm, go out, look up, and prepare to be amazed.

Look higher in the sky to the southwest and you'll see Jupiter, not as bright as Venus but still outshining all stars in the region. And nearby you'll also find the moon each morning this weekend and into early next week.

Robert Roy Britt is the Editorial Director of Imaginova. In this column, The Water Cooler, he looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.