Just about every year the presence of Venus in the Christmas sky causes excitement and comment. Many members of the general public look at it and wonder if it is the Star of Bethlehem. Others, recognizing it for what it is, as if it might have been the Star of Bethlehem 2000 years ago: the star seen by the Magi.
In fact, Venus is visible at Christmas virtually every year, either at dusk on Christmas Eve, or at dawn on Christmas Day, making it an implausible Star of Bethlehem unless the Magi visited Bethlehem hundreds of times over the centuries. However, that does not take anything away from the incredible spectacle and symbolic experience of seeing Venus in the Christmas sky.
The following is a guide to Venus and its visibility over the next 10 years.
Note that Venus does not simply swap between the morning and evening sky from one year to the next. In fact, between 2007 and 2010 it is a morning star three years out of four. In contrast, between 2013 and 2016 it will be an evening star three years out of four.
The skies are shown for a mid-latitude (that of Madrid, 40N) at 6:45pm or 7:30am local time, during evening or morning twilight respectively, but are valid for most of Europe and the United States.
Venus in the evening sky on Christmas Eve:
2014 (almost no visibility)
Venus in the morning sky on Christmas Day:
2009 (no visibility)