The planet Venus created quite a space spectacle this past Sunday morning. The triple conjunction consisted of the waning crescent moon, the brilliant planet Venus, and a bright star named Spica, which all together formed a celestial triangle. But unless you happened to be an early-riser, you probably missed it.
SPACE.com provides details about planet Venus and this celestial event:
“Venus currently rises an hour before dawn, when its nearest rival, Jupiter stands high in the southwest. Make no mistake about it, Venus is brilliant as always. About 50 minutes before sunrise all through November, it blazes at least 20 degrees up in the south-southeast. But while Venus is by far the brightest planet once it gets clear of the horizon hazes, it is not nearly as showy as it was late last summer when higher and brighter.”
If you enjoy your early morning vigils, look for the Leonid meteor shower, which is scheduled to peak on Saturday, November 17.
Planet Venus has other breaking news. ESA scientists have discovered that planet Venus has an ozone layer.
“We have been able to identify the signature [of the gas],” Franck Montmessin, an ESA researcher, told Deutsche Welle. “It was a bit by chance. We carefully looked at the spectra, and we saw some unexpected features.”
This discovery might also be an indicator that planet Venus harbors life. According to the article, “[o]n Earth, living organisms produce oxygen, which ultraviolet light breaks down in the upper layers of the atmosphere. These may combine with other oxygen molecules to become ozone. The ozone layer absorbs radiation, regulating the temperature on the planet.”
“There is speculation,” said Anja Bauermeister, an astrobiologist at the German Aerospace Center. “Conditions on Venus are really too harsh – people say it’s basically like hell: hot, acidic.”
While the ozone was likely a result of sunlight breaking up carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere, exobiologists believe that further investigation is required.
“One could send balloons into the Venusian atmosphere” to probe it further, Montmessin said. “We need to go back to Venus and use other types of measurements to see if there are types of complex organisms there.”
Planet Venus may have future secrets to discover, but for the moment we can enjoy its lustrous glare in the night sky.