Our closest planetary neighbour in orbital proximity and size, Venus, was thought to be Earth’s twin, until probes of its surface exposed a very different reality. Its dense, corrosive atmosphere, a hundred times thicker than our own, conceals a surface shaped by turbulent volcanic eruptions and violent impact craters.
Venus was the first planet to have its path across the sky studied – records of its motions from as early as 2000 B.C. have been found.
Like Mercury and the Moon, Venus exhibits phases. These are readily seen through a pair of binoculars. Venus is especially beautiful in its crescent phase, appearing different from the Moon because of its uniform surface.
Venus’s atmosphere cloaks all its native surface details – the smooth white surface visible through binoculars is made up of thick, billowing clouds of sulphuric acid.
Colloquially called the morning star or evening star, Venus’s proximity to the Sun means it’s visible as a bright speck in the sky around sunrise and sunset. The best time to view it is in twilight – sunlight interferes during the day, and Venus’s brightness will cause a sharp glare in full darkness.
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