Venus will be at its “greatest eastern elongation” 45 degrees east of Sun in the western sky on June 3rd and will be visible throughout the month as our “Evening Star.” Sunset at the beginning of the month will occur about 8:25 p.m. depending on your location. Start searching the sky soon after that for the first glimmer of Venus. The sky will continue to become darker as the Sun sinks lower and lower below the horizon until it is finally completely dark. This period after sunset is called “astronomical twilight” and lasts about 45 minutes. So that’s your window for picking out Venus. (For your planning, the actual latest sunset occurs on June 27th for those living at latitude 40 degrees north.)
Most observers find that Venus first becomes visible about 15 minutes after our Daytime Star has exited the sky. Competing with the Sun for lighting up the sky this month will be the Full Moon on June 4th. It typically rises in over the eastern horizon as the Sun sets over the western one. But its effect isn’t really noticed until after it gets dark and therefore offers no interference as far as brightening the sky and reducing the visibility of Venus.
The ultimate challenge is seeing Venus in broad daylight before the Sun actually sets! Many keen-eyed observers have reported doing this. The idea is to scan the sky around the planet’s expected location. A big help is to use a cardboard tube such as paper towels are rolled up on. This greatly reduces the bright glare from the surrounding sky, actually making it appear slightly darker due to contrast. Some recommend using two cardboard tubes— one for each eye. Using both eyes has long been known to increase its sensitivity. (It also increases its depth perception. Venus is much too far away to sense this, but give the Full Moon a look using both eyes through tubes to see the effect).
— James Mullaney
Former assistant editor at Sky & Telescope magazine & author of 10 books on stargazing. His latest, Celebrating the Universe!, is available from HayHouse.com.