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Unstrange Phenomena

08 November 2010

Is That A UFO In The Sky Or A Planet?

Check out the unusual night to early morning sky this month.

From Denny:  Talk about funny. At our house when we were star gazing off the back porch early in the morning this past week we sure were wondering what was going on in the sky above us. Was there actually a UFO sighting? It sure looked bizarre.

Turns out that the planet Venus is low in the sky on the morning horizon, shining brightly its light due to the extended daylight savings time. So, do try to resist the urge to run on down to your local police station to report your very first UFO sighting. :) Oh, well, so much for debunking the fun speculation at our house - and now yours.

Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. It sure is more fun to speculate. Of course that isn't going to stop the heavy call volume at local planetariums, observatories, weather offices and, yes, maybe even police stations that will be getting peppered with excited or anxious inquiries. Venus will be low in the sky for a couple of weeks so enjoy the planetary version of a UFO sighting.

The UFO sighting idea stemmed from viewing this dazzling silvery-white star-type object that suddenly made an appearance in the sky about 30 minutes before sunrise on 3 November. It was located just above the east-southeast horizon. Since then it has climbed higher in the sky on following mornings.

I have to admit the late sunrise combined with Venus so low on the eastern horizon is a real jolt to what usually is considered normal. Did you know that since daylight savings time extended into the first week of November 2008, sunrises at this time occur later - than even in the dead of winter? In some parts of the country sunrise does not occur until as late as 8 A.M.

Did you know the simple way to judge a 10 degree difference of how a planet rises in the sky is to hold up your clenched fist at arm's length? The portion of the sky that your clenched fist covers is about 10 degrees.

By 16 November Venus will have climbed about 20 degrees higher in the sky. By 25 November Venus will climb about 27 degrees. By the end of November the beautiful shining planet of Venus will hang up in the sky by about 30 degrees higher at sunrise. Venus will rise a good three hours before the sun by then. If you think Venus is bright now just keep looking up. On your morning commute to work you will find that Venus shines brighter and brighter during the month for quite an impressive early morning show.

Venus is closer to Earth this month - about 25 million miles - and moving much faster across the background stars. That's probably why so many people thought it was a UFO sighting since Venus is moving at such a rapid rate in comparison to the rest of the stars.

This photo was taken on 16 May 2010 with a  crescent moon and planet Venus in Mudanjiang City, in northeast China.

A dazzling Venus could prompt a flurry of UFO sightings. Since 3 November the planet is now fully visible and is not quite so scary just shining a mysterious light. For exact locations in the night sky you can check out this Sky Map for Nov 2010.

Skywatching Tips: Observing Venus Without Staring at the Sun

Moon Appears to Eat Venus in New Photos

Sky Map for Nov 2010

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