How to See Venus with a Telescope

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How to See Venus with a Telescope

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Observing the planet Venus is relatively easy since it is the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the moon. Looking at it and its phases can be a thrilling experience, especially if you are just starting your stargazing journey.

In this article, I will be taking you through how to see Venus through a telescope. I will give tips on how to find the planet in the sky, the best way to observe it, and the factors that you need to consider when observing the planet. 

But first, let’s look at a few facts about Venus.

Facts about the Planet Venus

Also called the ‘morning star’ or ‘evening star,’ Venus is placed second from the Sun after Mercury. While this planet is said to be Earth’s sister – since it is a terrestrial planet with a size similar to that of Earth – it is the hottest planet in our Solar System.

Venus comprises mostly barren wasteland and lava that flows at temperatures so high they can melt lead.

There is a lot of carbon dioxide surrounding Venus. The gas has resulted in a serious greenhouse effect by trapping heat from the Sun within Venus’ atmosphere.

Astronomers say the temperatures within the planet can reach up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resulting greenhouse effect make Venus hotter than Mercury, even though the latter is closer to the Sun. That’s how hot Venus is!

Why is Venus so Bright?

There are two factors that make Venus appear so bright from Earth. First, the distance between Venus and Earth is short.

When it is closest to Earth, the distance is only 24 million miles, and 162 million miles when it is at its farthest. The shorter distance means we can see most of the light the planet reflects, making it appear very bright.

The second factor is the fact that Venus is perpetually covered in very thick clouds. Now, these clouds reflect more than two-thirds of the light they get from the Sun.

This reflectivity, combined with that from the planet itself, makes Venus look very bright.

While the fact that Venus is covered in thick clouds means we cannot get clear views of its surface features, the cloud’s reflectivity plays a critical role in the overall brightness of the planet and ensures that we cannot fail to locate it when it is up.

How to Find Venus in the Night Sky

When trying to locate Venus in the sky, the first thing you need to bear in mind is that it is closer to the Sun than the Earth. It also orbits the Sun like our planet.

This tells us that the position of Venus in the sky will be close to the position of the Sun (at most halfway across the sky from our star). 

In general, you are either going to see it towards the West shortly after sunset or over the horizon in the East before the sun rises. This is the reason Venus is often called the ‘morning star’ or the ‘evening star.’

You can easily spot Venus multiple times throughout this year. It reached one of its greatest elongations on June 4th, 2023, hitting a magnitude of -4.3.

The next greatest elongation will happen on October 23rd, and it is expected to reach a magnitude of -4.4. It is worth noting that during the greatest elongations, Venus is often farthest from the Sun.

Finding Venus with Your Phone

It is not always easy to locate Venus just by looking at the sky and trying to guess where it might be. But the good news is that you can use your phone to locate the planet.

There are many mobile applications, both for iPhone and Android, that you can use to find the exact location of the planet.

Examples of these astronomy applications and software include Sky Safari 6 and Stellarium. These applications will give you a plan of the sky depending on your location and pinpoint the position of the planet you are looking for.

You can also get the position of satellites, stars, and comets within a few seconds with the help of these tools.

Once you know when and where to look for Venus, you are ready to start the viewing session. So go ahead, set your equipment, and get ready to be amazed.

How to See Venus without a Telescope

It is easy to spot Venus without a telescope because, as I have pointed out earlier, it is the third brightest celestial object after the Sun and the Moon. 

You can see the planet low on the horizon to the East about 30-40 minutes before the sun rises or towards the Western horizon after the sun sets. It is just so bright you cannot miss it or mistake it for another object.

You can confirm you are looking at Venus by using a pair of powerful binoculars. Note that Venus has phases like the moon, so the image you are going to see will depend on its position in the orbit. However, you should be able to see it as a bright, solid disc. 

How to See Venus with a Telescope

So, how do you get the best view of Venus with a telescope? You will, of course, need your telescope but before anything else, you want to make sure you know where exactly to point the finderscope.

The first thing you need to do is locate the position of the planet using software or mobile applications explained in the previous sections. 

Most of the applications will give you the altitude of the planet you are looking for, so it is easier for you to find the position. For example, an astronomy app may tell you the altitude of Venus is 30 degrees west of the Eastern horizon. 

The horizon itself will obviously be at 0 degrees, and the directly overhead the horizon will be at 90 degrees. Mid-way between the horizon and directly overhead, therefore, will be at 45 degrees.

Using this information, you can easily find Venus. And the fact that it is very bright will make the process way easier.

Once you have identified the position, you want to make sure your equipment is aligned and set correctly. Be sure to check the finderscope and make sure it is aligned properly.

Now, center the bright object you just identified above as being Venus in the finderscope. Be sure to start with medium-low eyepiece magnification.

Look through the eyepiece to confirm you are actually looking at Venus. While there could be bright stars around the planet, it should be the brightest object. 

You can also differentiate between Venus and stars by looking at their shape. If what you are looking at is just a random star, it is going to appear as a point of light. However, if you have Venus in sight, it should look like a solid disc.

If you have a bigger telescope and you look closely, Venus should have a crescent shape. Why? We always see Venus off one side of the Sun.

We cannot see it when it’s directly behind or ahead of the Sun, as the Sun will outshine it. So, if you have a crescent-like object in sight, you are definitely looking at the planet Venus.

When is the Best Time to See Venus with a Telescope?

The best time to observe Venus with a telescope is during the evening after sunset or in the morning before sunrise. During its orbit, Venus moves close in front or behind the path of the Sun across the sky.

This means there are instances, though rare, when you will see a crescent-shaped object against the bright twilight shortly before sunrise or after sunset.

Also, Venus reaches its peal elongation at 46 degrees from the Sun’s and Earth’s lime, and during this moment, it is easier to spot Venus. The first peak elongation, as mentioned earlier, has already passed, but there is another happening on October 23rd, so you should definitely watch out for that.

It is also worth noting that your location and time of day are also important when viewing Venus. The planet usually sits on the horizon roughly three hours after the sun sets.

It also rises about three hours before the sun is up. During this period, you have the best shot at observing Venus.

What to Target when Observing Venus with a Telescope

Unfortunately, there is not much to look for when observing Venus because the planet is covered in very thick clouds. The clouds are so thick you won’t be able to see any surface features. Also, despite it being very bright, the planet has zero moons, so again, nothing exciting here. 

However, there is one thing about Venus you might want to track – the crescent phasing.

When I first started tracking Venus, I didn’t find it fun, but then I decided to view it between its multiple phases and catalog everything. The experience got more interesting the closer the planet got to Earth.

I noticed that as the planet approaches us and becomes brighter and brighter, the crescent becomes thinner, creating an amazing sight in the eyepiece. Try tracking the planet, and I am sure you will love the experience. 

What You Cannot See on Venus through a Telescope

According to astronomers, Venus has a very rugged terrain similar to the Earth’s surface. There are deep valleys and mountains, and the surface is covered by a lot of volcanic plains. 

There are also some impact craters, but they are not as many as those found on Mars or the Moon. You are not going to see these features through a telescope.

Also, unlike when viewing Jupiter or Saturn, you won’t see any rings, stripes, or cloud bands.

What Type of Telescope Do I Need to See Venus?

You can generally see Venus from Earth with any decent pair of binoculars or any type of telescope. While the optical design of the telescope you use is not a critical factor when choosing a telescope for viewing Venus, Dobsonian telescopes are generally great for celestial viewing.

This doesn’t, however, mean that other types of refracting or reflecting telescopes are not good. If you have a telescope with an aperture of at least 62mm and a focal length of 800 mm+, you are sure to have decent Venus viewing sessions. Of course, you are going to have better views if you have a larger telescope.

When it comes to magnification, any telescope with a magnification of 30X to 40X per inch of aperture is sufficient for observing Venus satisfactorily. 

I must, however, warn you that Venus is quite difficult to observe with a telescope because of the thick clouds covering it. The clouds are highly reflective, and the planet itself is highly luminous.

These two factors can result in very intense glare, leading to the planet appearing like a blob of light. It is advisable, therefore, to invest in a good moon filter to reduce the glare and give you a better chance of getting good-quality images.

Note also that this planet is often positioned low on the horizon. This is the case whether you are observing it in the morning or evening.

The light it reflects has to travel through several layers of gases, atmospheric turbulence, and particles before it enters your telescope. You may consequently have low-quality images, so you need to consider the conditions of the atmosphere before setting your vantage point for viewing Venus.

Other factors you want to consider when viewing Venus include:

  • The seeing conditions
  • Air turbulence
  • Light pollution
  • Atmospheric conditions
  • Outside temperature

Final Thoughts

Venus is a beautiful planet very close to Earth, making it easier to spot and track. The fact that it is the third brightest celestial object also makes it easily visible from Earth through a telescope.

While you are not going to view any surface features of the planet, it still presents a stunning view you are not going to forget. Follow the tips provided above to get the best images of the planet Venus.

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