Two very different planets meet in the evening near the south-western horizon this week. Venus is the nearest planet to the earth. It is almost identical to our planet in terms of size, yet its closer proximity to the sun has rendered it a hellish world, with surface temperatures greater than a kitchen oven. It is surrounded by highly reflective clouds, making it very bright indeed.
It is joined in the sky by Saturn, which is nearly eight times further away from the earth at the moment. Saturn is a gas giant, almost 10 times the diameter of the earth. Although it is much larger than Venus, it is so much further away that it appears to be the dimmer of the two planets.
Catch these planets while you can because Saturn’s orbit is currently taking it behind the sun, and it will be lost from view completely throughout January. It will then reappear in the morning sky during February. The chart shows the view looking south-west from London at 17:00 GMT on 10 December 2019.