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Venus in Astronomy



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No one has ever seen Venus’ face. She modestly shrouds herself in sulfuric acid clouds ranging from 25 to 50 miles above her surface. At the cloud tops the winds are over 200 mph, but subside to gentle breezes at the ground. Although admiring visitors would not literally be blown away, they would have to contend with an atmosphere 90 times denser than our own, comparable to 3000 feet under water. This has caused a runaway greenhouse effect raising her surface temperature to over 870 degrees Fahrenheit (above the melting point of lead). Venus is actually hotter than Mercury, even though she’s twice as far from the Sun. The goddess of love is definitely not an easy woman to meet—but then what desirable woman is?

  radar image of planet Venus

Above is a composite, false color radar view of more than a decade of radar investigations of Venus; arbitrary colors were added to represent elevation. The Magellan spacecraft imaged more than 98% of Venus at a resolution of about 300 feet; the effective resolution of this image is about 2 miles.




Second planet from the Sun (after Mercury), Venus is the closest planet to the Earth in size (95% of the Earth’s diameter), has a similar density and chemical composition, and may once have had large amounts of water that have since boiled off. Unlike the Earth, however, it has no moon and no magnetic field. Most of its present-day surface consists of gently rolling plains and a few mountains, the oldest of which seem to be about 800 million years of age. A great period of volcanism at that time is thought to have wiped out earlier surface features and large craters. Perhaps by studying a very similar planet that turned out so differently we can learn more about the Earth.

Because Venus and Mercury are closer to the Sun than we are, they display phases like the Moon when viewed through a telescope. In this regard they are known as "inferior planets". This is also why Venus can only be seen in the evening soon after sunset or in the morning before sunrise. Because of this she is known as both the morning and the "evening star."

Venus’ day is slightly longer than its year—243 Earth days long—and it rotates opposite (retrograde) to its orbital direction. Curiously enough it always shows the same face to the Earth when the two planets are closest to each other.

Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) wrote three tremendously controversial books in the 1950’s that touch on Venus’ origin. In them, he presented a great deal of anthropological, archaeological, and geological data supporting the contention that 3500 years ago Venus was ejected from the planet Jupiter, became a comet, and grazed the Earth and Mars a number of times before settling into its current orbit. He attributed many ancient recorded catastrophes coincident with the Israelites’ Egyptian Exodus to this Venus-Earth interaction: the Seven Plagues of the Bible, the Red Sea parting, Mt. Sinai erupting, and "the pillar of cloud and fire moving in the sky." Velikovsky discovered that early peoples all over the globe (including Egyptians and new world peoples) had an independent, synchronous record of such a catastrophe. He further contended that Venus was the source of most, if not all, of the Earth’s oil.

Velikovsky’s work was heretical for many reasons, not the least of which was his attacking the sacred astronomical cow that planetary orbits have been stable for billions of years. Before its release, the scientific and academic communities threatened to boycott Macmillan Books if they published him.

Worlds in Collision transferred to and published by Doubleday in April 1950 became the nation’s number one best-seller. Although the surface temperature and atmosphere of Venus were unknown when Velikovsky was first published, the early space probes in the Sixties dramatically confirmed his predictions. Ages in Chaos and Earth in Upheaval soon followed offering geological and paleontological evidence supporting Worlds in Collision, as well as presenting a new catastrophic theory of evolution that conflicted with Darwin’s. Velikovsky and Albert Einstein had many dialogues and much correspondence until days before Einstein’s death.

This Planet-Venus-in-Astronomy page and much of this 600-page website are excerpted from the personalized Fine Art Book You and the Universe.

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© Carl Woebcke: The planet Venus in Astronomy, 1991-2016. All rights reserved.