Seven Sisters Host Evening Star

S&T Illustration
Venus, the brightest planet, makes a spectacular grouping with the Pleiades, the sky's brightest star cluster, from April 10-12. The closest approach is on Wednesday the 11th, with Venus just 2½° from the cluster's center, but the entire formation will fit easily in a single binocular field of view throughout this period.

The formation shows best one to two hours after sunset, and it's extremely easy to locate. Venus is the overwhelmingly bright "star" in the western sky, and the cluster is two finger-widths to the planet's right.

In addition to being a fine visual spectacle, this is an excellent photo-opportunity. You don't need fancy equipment; any camera that can take multisecond exposures will do. Experiment with the settings, keeping the time long enough to show the Pleiades well but short enough so that the stars don't trail, and Venus doesn't burn out too badly. And please send your best shots to our Photo Gallery.

Venus passes by the Pleiades every year, but these events are most spectacular when they happen in early April, when the Pleiades are still high in the evening sky and (coincidentally) Venus makes its closest approach to the cluster. The next conjunction better than this one will occur on April 3, 2012, with Venus less than a half degree from Alcyone, the Pleiades' bright central star. And on April 4, 2036, the evening star will cross through the bowl of the Pleiades' dipper. Mark your calendars!