Falling in Love with Deadly Venus

Falling in Love with Deadly Venus

She's the most Predominant Planet in the Night Sky.  Here's Where to Find Her and When.

Venus-real color.jpg

 

Venus is our sister planet.  It was named after the Roman goddess of love.  It is both close to the Earth and almost the same size.  More significantly, it's usually the 3rd brightest object in the sky next to the sun and the moon although Jupiter will occasionally outshine her.  Its yellowish colour greets us morning and night and has often been referred to as the "morning-star," the "evening-star," and occasionally the "wishing-star."  Typically it is at its brightest soon after sunset and right before dawn. 

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 Venus reflected on the Pacific Ocean by Brocken Inaglory


A Visit To Venus

Due to the fact that Venus and the Earth are very close to the same size (95% of Earth's diameter, 80% of Earth's mass), you would weigh almost as much on either planet. If you weigh 140 pounds (64 kg) on Earth, you will weigh 126 pounds (58 kg) on Venus. 

However, any "wish" to go to Venus should be moderated with some facts.  The atmosphere is mostly composed of carbon-dioxide and sulphuric acid.   The yellow colour so common in sulphur has much to do with its yellows appearance.

 

And then there's the weather on Venus.  Average temperature on Venus is 465° C or 870°F.  That's hot enough to melt lead and destroy many of the probes sent to explore the surface including the Russian Venera 4 which was the first probe to land on the surface and transmit photographs.  A noble effort that only survived 93 minutes before the punishing temperatures and pressures of Venus terminated transmissions.  In fact the atmospheric pressure on the surface of Venus is 92 times that of the Earth.  That's equal to the pressure you would experience one kilometer deep in the ocean.

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 Image of Venus surface from Venera 13 credit: USSR / Preserved by the NASA National Space Science Data Center.


Venus From A Safe Distance

Fortunately for us, we can enjoy Venus in the comfort of our yards, fields and rooftops.   As the brightest planet in our solar system it's hard to miss, but it does have phases much like the moon. 

These phases diminish the magnitude of the planet but viewing a crescent Venus can be as exciting as observing the entire planet.  Unlike our moon which goes through its phases on a monthly basis, it takes Venus 584 days to go through a full phase-cycle from new to full.

 

Many amateur astronomers struggle a bit the first time they view Venus through a telescope.  They just can't seem to determine when the planet has come into focus.  This is due to a number of factors including the cloudy haze that surrounds the planet, plus the effect of Earth's atmosphere on a planet that typically appears very low on the horizon.  It's another reason why viewing Venus as a crescent is sometimes desirable.  The crescent offers some demarcation from light to dark that allows you to determine final focus. 

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 Venus from Earth through a telescope by Marc Lecleire

Finding Venus is relatively easy.  Venus is usually visible in the western sky for approximately 3 hours after sunset.  Venus is also often visible in the eastern sky for approximately 3 hours before sunrise.  However, there are variations that occur throughout the year so you should either access a software program, app or university site with daily skymapping capability.

Want more on Venus, have a look at this article on Venus facts.

Find more on: Observing the Night Sky

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