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The Romance of Venus and Mars at Opposition: This week on The Storyteller's Night Sky

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In ancient tradition, the birch is aligned to the planet Venus, and in this season, the planet of love and beauty is putting on her coppery gown to close out the year as our brilliant evening star.

The last month of the year begins this week, and in grand, poetic style, the planet of love and beauty, which spent most of the year as our morning star, and has of late been awash in the light of the Sun, will soon emerge in her evening gown, adorning the end of the day and the end of the year with celestial brilliance.

Before we see Venus in the West after sunset, she will have a midnight encounter with her ancient beloved, Mars. Nine months ago these two were together in the morning sky with Pluto, a dynamic combination. Now, they stand opposite one another in the starry firmament, a gesture that challenges them, you could say, to demonstrate strength in relationship.

This opposition finds Mars in the terrain of Taurus, the bull, near its horns, while Venus is near the right foot of the healer giant Ophiucus.

We won’t see either planet at the exact moment of opposition, but here’s what we can know:

Near this star in Ophiucus, Venus is almost exactly conjunct the remnants of SN 1604, more popularly known as Kepler’s Star. When this star went supernova in 1604, many European astronomers were watching the very region of sky, because Mars was catching up to Jupiter and Saturn there~these two planets had just been in great conjunction. Arabic astrologers predicted that exceptional things could be expected if unusual phenomena accompanied Mars’ meeting with Jupiter and Saturn, so everyone was watching. The rare and wonderful event of this supernova sent the 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler on a path of research that led to his realizing that stories of the Christmas Star, the Star of Bethlehem, are connected to the great conjunctions of Jupiter with Saturn, and this week, Venus comes face-to-face with her beloved from the very place in the heavens that inspired that beautiful thought.

Mary Stewart Adams is a Star Lore Historian and host of “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.” As a global advocate for starry skies, Mary led the team that established the 9th International Dark Sky Park in the world in 2011, which later led to her home state of Michigan protecting 35,000 acres of state land for its natural darkness.