What is that incredibly bright object in the southwest after sunset? Two fist-widths above the horizon, it is Venus, shining brightly at magnitude -4.1. It is the third brightest object in the sky (after the sun and moon). Venus appears bright white from Earth because of its thick cloud cover. No details are visible on its surface.
Venus orbits the sun every 225 days, but because its orbit is inside of the Earth’s it never appears more than 47 degrees away from the sun. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system with an average surface temperature of over 850 degrees Fahrenheit. This is due to a runaway greenhouse effect caused by the carbon dioxide in its atmosphere.
For information about astronomy and the nighttime sky and to see these wonders through a telescope, visit the Insperity Observatory for public night, first Friday of each month from sunset to 10 pm: humbleisd.net/observatory.