The planet Venus seemed to join the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades in the night sky Thursday and Friday.
It was a marvelous sight: brilliant Venus shared that small patch of sky occupied by one of the most beautiful constellations, the Pleiades open star cluster. The apparent juxtaposition happens every 8 years or so.
Those outside just past 8 p.m. looked toward the west and saw Venus, reflecting the sun’s light. As the skies darkened from blue to black, they watched as several stars appeared behind the planet. The stars are part of the Pleiades open cluster.
Currently, Venus is about 59 million miles from earth. It’s current position in its orbit around the sun, combined with its highly reflective cloud cover, makes Venus look to us on earth like an oncoming airplane with its landing lights switched on.
The Pleiades look like a very compact grouping of six (or seven, depending on one’s eyesight) relatively faint stars. Located about 425 light years from earth, the Seven Sisters themselves seem like a Tiny Dipper, taking up only a couple of full moon’s worth of sky.
The seven brightest Pleiades are close together, making a beautiful sight. In all, the open cluster is comprised of 3,000 young, bright stars, formed from the same cloud of gas and dust that also formed their brightest members about 100 million years ago. Click here for details from NAIC — the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center.
A light year is the distance light travels in one year, about 5.88 trillion miles. So, doing the math, Venus is right next door and the stars in the Pleiades are about 2,599 trillion (or 2.6 quadrillion) miles beyond.
The photo above shows Venus and the Pleiades, taken April 3 at about 9:30 p.m. The bright object with all the rays is Venus. The background stars are the brightest stars in the Pleiades open cluster. To capture the faint light of the stars resulted in overexposing the planet, which caused the flares around Venus. In other words, a lucky shot.
Get complete details here: NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.