While at lunch today, a coworker asked “What is that bright star at dusk?” Why, Venus of course! It was suggested that Venus only appears in the morning, which of course is not true, but it’s interesting to hear occasionally.

Another fun question was “How can you tell if it’s a planet?” It is true that the planets don’t generally flicker as much as stars (though this is more a function of the atmosphere than their planet-ness). Another way you can get an idea is whether they follow the ecliptic. Most of the planets (and even the moon) follow a line through the sky which is mostly the same path that the Sun takes. So, if you can generally track the direction of the Sun during the day, at night you can look for ‘stars’ which are traveling along this line. While this might seem like a good way to find new planets (and it’s probably not a bad place to look), keep in mind that many of them are still inclined against it. Notably, not-quite-a-planet, Pluto has a pretty weird orbit and it’s not quite on the Ecliptic.

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