Winter’s chill made an early visit to the Tennessee Valley this week, and will continue on for a few more days. You might not be ready for the cold, but there are some upsides to it too! Cold air can be clearer than warmer air, which makes our skies deeper blue during the day and the stars brighter at night.
Cold air can’t evaporate as much moisture as warm air, which cuts back on the number of micro water droplets and other fine particles in the sky. The result is a night sky with clearer and sharper views of stars, the moon, and bright planets.
This also happens to be one of the best times to see the bright planet Venus. November and December are when Venus fulfills its title of “morning star” as it rises before the sun in the eastern sky. When visible, Venus is the brightest object in our sky, other than the sun and moon of course.
The planet goes through phases where it is and isn’t visible to us, just like the moon. Also like the moon, it reaches a peak of brightness/fullness; for Venus this is called the greatest illuminated extent. Venus reaches its next greatest illuminated extent on December 1st and 2nd, however we expect a lot of cloud cover and some showers to block its view this weekend. Your best bet is to look for the bright planet during the next few nights, while it’s cold and clearer!