Currently, astronomy enthusiasts can’t see the brilliant planet Venus in the skydome: Venus is very close to the Sun, so its glare outshines the planet. However, as early as April 2021, Venus will return to our sky. Make use of this time and discover some remarkable facts about this amazing planet, which will make your future observations more exciting!
Also, you can take our fun and educational quiz about Venus to test your knowledge about this planet.
When is Venus visible?
These days we can’t enjoy the view of the bright planet Venus as on March 26, 2021, it reached superior solar conjunction passing very close to the Sun in the sky. At superior solar conjunction, the Sun’s glare outshines Venus, making it totally unobservable for several weeks. Also, this astronomical event marks the end of Venus’s morning apparition and the beginning of the evening one: over the next few weeks, the brilliant planet will become the prominent object of the evening sky.
As Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, the Sun’s glare outshines the planet most of the time. Nevertheless, it becomes visible for terrestrial observers at certain periods of time. The best time to see Venus is when the planet reaches its greatest elongation or, in other words, greatest separation from the Sun, as seen from the Earth.
The greatest elongations of Venus take place roughly every 9 months. The greatest western elongation is also called the morning one, as, during this period, Venus shines brightly in the predawn sky — hence the name “morning star”. And vice versa, the eastern elongation is referred to as the evening one as Venus appears in the sky after sundown.
It’s interesting that ancient skygazers took Venus for two separate sky objects: the Morning Star and the Evening Star (or Phosphorus and Hesperus to the Greeks and Lucifer and Vesper to the Romans). Let’s turn to history to learn more interesting facts about Venus.
When was Venus discovered?
The exact date of Venus’s discovery is unknown; as this bright planet can be easily seen with the unaided eye, it was observed by ancient astronomers from different civilizations since the dawn of time. Thus, we don’t know for sure who discovered Venus; however, Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei are credited with the classification of Venus as a planet. The latter carried out the first accurate observation of Venus in 1610: Galileo viewed the planet through a telescope and discovered its phases, which are similar to the lunar ones. This discovery proved the Copernican theory that planets orbited the Sun and not vice versa. Another interesting discovery related to Venus is the discovery of its atmosphere.
What is Venus’s atmosphere made of?
The gaseous Venusian atmosphere was initially discovered in 1761 by the Russian polymath Mikhail Lomonosov. Observing the transit of Venus across the solar disk, Lomonosov spotted a light ring around the planet’s disk. He correctly assumed that this phenomenon might be caused by the refraction of the Sun’s rays in the thick Venusian atmosphere.
The atmosphere of Venus consists of 96.5% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen, and traces of other gases. Thick clouds composed of sulfuric acid and water vapor cover the planet’s surface and reflect around 75% of the sunlight that reaches Venus: that’s why this planet is so bright. How hot is Venus? The thick Venusian atmosphere trapping heat causes surface temperatures higher than 465°C or 900°F. That is the reason why Venus is hotter than Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.
As thick clouds hide the Venusian surface, for a very long time people believed that Venus was similar to the Earth. This close planet has always been interesting for scientists and astronomers: over 40 spacecraft landed on Venus. Its proximity to our planet will always make Venus a target for future studies and journeys.
How long would it take to get to Venus?
To answer this question, we should first figure out how far Venus is from the Earth. Venus is the closest planet to the Earth, although the distance between the planets constantly varies as they move in their elliptical orbits around the Sun. At its closest approach to the Earth, which happens once every 584 days, the distance between Venus and our planet can be about 40 million kilometers.
Not only the distance between the planets but also the speed and the path of a spacecraft determine the duration of the journey to Venus. It took both NASA’s Mariner 2 sent to Venus in 1962 and Venera 7 of the Soviet Union launched in 1970 less than four months to reach the planet.
Interesting facts about Venus
- Many novice astronomy lovers wonder, ”How many moons does Venus have”? Actually, Venus has no moons at all! Venus and Mercury are the only planets of the Solar System that don’t have any natural satellites orbiting them. Scientists suggest that Venus might once have had a moon formed as a result of a collision. Later, another collision destroyed this satellite.
- How long is a day on Venus? The rotation of Venus is very slow: it takes about 243 Earth days to spin around just once. Ironically, one Venusian day is longer than one Venusian year as it takes Venus 225 Earth days to complete an orbit around the Sun.
- What is Venus made of? Unfortunately, little information is available about the internal structure of Venus. Due to the similarity in size and mass between Venus and the Earth, scientists believe that the planets share a similar interior. Venus is likely to have a crust, a rocky mantle, and a liquid core. However, the core might also be solid or even might not exist at all.
- How big is Venus? With a diameter of 12,104 kilometers, this second closest planet to the Sun is slightly smaller than the Earth. Also, the mass of Venus is about 85% that of our planet.
We hope that you enjoyed reading this article and learned something new about Venus from it. Please share it with your friends on social media and let us know if you’d like to learn more about other sky objects!