Venus spotted from the UK as planet nears brightest point of the year

From mid-November this year Venus is visible before dawn, with the planet at its brightest on December 1 and 2.

Press Association
Last updated: 30 November 2018 - 2.40pm

If you spot an especially bright star in the sky before sunrise at this time of year, it might not be a star at all, but the planet Venus.

Venus can be seen in the eastern sky at dawn from November 5 to December 31, with the planet’s brightest point on December 1 and 2 this year.

During this time, Venus rises between three and four hours before the Sun, when it can be seen in the constellation of Virgo, moving into Libra during December.

Social media users rushed to take photos of the planet, which could be seen shining brightly in the skies above the UK as November came to a close.

Twitter user Elliott Bunker said: “Totally amazing to see the planet Venus shining bright above us this morning!”

Venus is our neighbouring planet, and at this time of year is the third largest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon.

In early December, the planet will be about 25% illuminated, and appears so bright because it reflects a high percentage of the sunlight that strikes it – about 70%. This is due to the sulphuric clouds that surround the planet and act like a mirror for light.

Venus goes through phases just like the Moon – in November and December this year, the planet will resemble a crescent moon, and will become more like a half moon by the end of the year.

At this time of the year, the planet should be easy to spot in clear conditions, but binoculars can enhance the view.

Venus is similar in structure and size to Earth; however, the planet spins slowly in the opposite direction and has a thick atmosphere that traps heat in a greenhouse effect.

This makes it the hottest planet in our solar system, with surface temperatures high enough to melt lead.

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