Solar system’s spectacular sky show

Early Autumn means a sky spectacular with the two brightest planets in the solar system on show – anytime this month. 

According to Lismore-based astronomer, writer  and skywatcher Dave Reneke, if you go out at sunset and look up towards the north-west, Jupiter pops out of the twilight as a very bright “star” even before the sky fades completely to black. 

“Surrounded by evening blue it’s a spellbinding sight, and looks great even in a small telescope or binoculars,” Mr Reneke says. 

“Jupiter is the largest planet but doesn’t have a solid surface that we can see, just thick poisonous clouds 1000km deep. 

“Now, if you go out before sunrise you’ll see an equally brilliant sight with Venus, commonly called the “evening star”, blazing brightly above the eastern horizon. This brilliant planet will climb higher in the pre-dawn darkness and continue to light up the morning, even after all the stars have been washed from the sky. 

“Venus is so much brighter than any other planet in the solar system. It reflects over 70 per cent of sunlight striking it because of thick clouds covering the planet. Venus also spins backwards, opposite to the way Earth does on its axis. 

“So on Earth, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but on Venus the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. Weird huh?”

Mr Reneke said that through a telescope Venus will show you phases just like the Moon, and appear fuzzy, but that’s about as good as it gets.

Venus is the number one object reported as a UFO.

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