Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Crescent Brilliance: "Venus is the brightest of all planets. It makes Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, look feeble. At sundown Venus materializes close to the western horizon."

"This week Venus (magnitude -4.5) is at maximum brightness. It is 8 times brighter than the planet Jupiter (magnitude -2.3), 23 times brighter than Sirius (magnitude -1.1), and 275 times brighter than the planet Mars (magnitude +1.6). Venus can actually cast faint shadows; only the Sun and Moon outshine it."

"Just like the Moon, Venus has phases. It can be full, gibbous, half or a crescent. These phases occur for the same reason that Moon phases do: geometry. One side of Venus is sunlit (the 'dayside'). The other side is dark (the 'nightside'). As Venus orbits the Sun it turns one side, then the other, toward Earth. At the moment, Venus is turning its nightside toward us. We can see only a sliver of the dayside—hence the crescent.

"In one way Moon-phases and Venus-phases differ: The Moon is bright when it's full, and dim when it's a crescent. Venus is just the opposite. It reaches greatest brilliancy at crescent phase. A full Venus, on the other hand, is dim. Strange but true."

"Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians).

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