As these early fall days grow shorter, our western slope skies are still dark at 6:00 AM. So, this is a great time to see a celestial spectacle in the morning without having to get up too early. From September 29 through October 7 the brilliant planet, Venus, often called the morning star, will be moving past Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo.
At 6:00 AM look east to find Venus, which is by far the brightest object in the sky. On the morning of September 29, Venus stands about 5 degrees west of, or above, Regulus, the “heart star” of Leo the Lion. That’s less than the distance across a fist held at arms’ length. Regulus is a fairly bright star, the 21st brightest star in the entire sky. But, brilliant Venus appears 150 times brighter than Regulus this week. Day by day, Venus draws closer to Regulus, until they are less than a quarter of a degree apart on the morning of October 3.
That’s so close that, because of Venus’ great brilliance, it might be difficult to see Venus and Regulus separately with the unaided eye. Can you see Venus and Regulus as separate objects on October 3? If not, try using binoculars or a small telescope. After October 3, Venus moves east of, or below, Regulus, as they become separated by 5 degrees on October 7, and even farther thereafter.
Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.