IF you've been outside an hour or so after sunset on a clear evening recently you'll have seen a very, *very* bright point of light low in the sky to the south west.

Some people think this is just the first star to come out at night.

Others think it is the space station, while others still think it is the "North Star", because they've grown up believing that the North Star is the brightest star in the whole sky. All these are wrong.

The space station moves across the sky as you look at it, drifting from right to left (west to east) across the sky, and the North Star is nowhere near the brightest in the sky.

No, what you're seeing is a planet - the planet Venus.

Venus is famously known as the Evening Star, because it is seen most often after sunset, but it can be a Morning Star shining before sunrise too.

At the moment it is very definitely an Evening Star, and is looking quite spectacular blazing above the trees and roofs in the golden twilight.

Why is it so bright?

For one thing Venus is close to us, in astronomical terms at least.

But the main reason this neighbouring planet is so bright is because it has a very thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide gas which reflects the Sun's light back out into space like a mirror.

We'll be able to enjoy the sight of Venus blazing low in the sky after sunset for a few more weeks yet, but given the ups and downs of the Cumbrian weather, especially at this time of year, you should get out and see it the next chance you get - it might be your last.

And when you've spotted Venus look to its upper left, towards the south, to see two more planets shining there.

The higher and brighter of the two is Jupiter, with fainter Saturn shining between it and Venus.