Venus shines bright in the evening, while Saturn and Mars meet up with the Moon
Venus will return to the sky in April as a beautiful “Evening Star,” bright enough to dominate the sky after sunset and draw the eye away from everything else. Not only that, but it will be in a part of the sky rich with star clusters, and will have a spectacular close encounter with the young Moon mid-month.
At the start of April Venus will be relatively low in the west after sunset, but with each day that passes it will climb a little further away from the Sun, improving its visibility until it is setting more than three hours after the Sun. To see Venus at its best you’ll want to be somewhere with a clear view to the west, as your viewing won’t be cut short by the planet disappearing behind trees, a hill or buildings. It will be immediately obvious to the naked eye, but if you have a telescope it will show you Venus as a bright, gibbous disc.
On 17 April, a beautiful, crescent Moon will be shining below and to the left of Venus. By the next evening the Moon will shine to the planet’s upper left, and you should see the subtle lavender glow of Earthshine illuminating the dark part of the Moon’s disc. After sunset on the 19th the Moon will have climbed further away to Venus’ upper left, but they will still be a stunning sight together in the twilight.
In late April Venus will appear to drift up towards, and then pass, the famous Pleiades star cluster. On the evening of 24 April the planet and cluster will be just under three-and-a-half-degrees apart. This celestial fly-by will look particularly pretty through binoculars. Venus will then slide up between the Pleiades and the nearby V-shaped Hyades cluster. Look for Venus shining alongside the Hyades’ brightest star, red-hued Aldebaran, on the 27 April.
Venus is often called “Earth’s Twin” because it is roughly the same size, but the similarities end there. Earth is an oasis compared to the furnace-hot nightmare world of Venus. Venus is thought of by many planetary scientists as the forgotten planet; although a handful of space probes have been sent there, and other space agencies have studied it, other planets, notably Mars, tend to get more attention paid to them by NASA. Lots of missions to study Venus have been proposed over the years, but none have been approved. This is a great shame, because not only is Venus a fascinating planet in its own right, but studying its climate and weather in the same depth other missions have studied Mars and Saturn would tell us a lot about global warming and atmospheric science, which might help us combat climate change here on Earth.