Wolfgang Korsus Dipl.-Ing.NT, Astrophysiker
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Astronomy enthusiasts can be a bit sour at times. Because there is currently a „moment“ when they do not have a view of one of their favorite planets. They have just purchased one of the best reflecting telescopes on the market. How is this to be explained? The brilliant planet Venus is not to be seen!
They inform themselves a little deeper and learn the following:
Venus is very close to the Sun, and its enormous glare provides a „glare“, so to speak, because it outshines the planet. But no fear, already in April 2021 the Venus returns in our “ sky“. I can make nr following comment to it:
Please use the little time and discover some remarkable facts about the planet Venus.
When is Venus visible?
At the moment we cannot enjoy the view of the bright planet Venus, because it reached a superior solar conjunction on March 26, 2021, passing very close to the Sun in the sky. During a superior solar conjunction, the glare of the Sun outshines Venus and makes it completely unobservable for several weeks. This astronomical event also marks the end of Venus‘ morning apparition and the beginning of its evening one: Over the next few weeks, the brilliant planet will become the preeminent object in the evening sky.
Because Venus is closer to the Sun than to Earth, sunshine outshines the planet most of the time. Nevertheless, it becomes visible to terrestrial observers at certain times. The best time to see Venus is when the planet reaches its greatest elongation, or in other words, greatest separation from the Sun from Earth.
Venus‘ greatest elongations occur approximately every 9 months. The greatest western elongation is also called the morning elongation because Venus shines brightly in the pre-dawn sky during this time – hence the name „morning star“. And conversely, eastern elongation is called evening elongation because Venus appears in the sky after sunset.
It is interesting to note that ancient sky watchers considered Venus to be two separate celestial objects: [the morning star and the evening star] (or Eosphorus and Hesperus for the Greeks and Lucifer and Vesper for the Romans). Let us now turn to history to learn more interesting facts about Venus.
When was Venus discovered?
The exact date of the discovery of Venus is unknown. Since this bright planet is easily visible to the naked eye, it has been observed by ancient astronomers from different civilizations since the beginning of time. Therefore, we do not know exactly who discovered Venus. However, Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei are credited with classifying Venus as a planet. The latter made the first accurate observation of Venus in 1610: Galileo looked at the planet through a telescope and discovered its phases, which are similar to the phases of the moon. 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 the atmosphere of Venus made of?
The gaseous Venusian atmosphere was discovered in 1761 by Russian polymath Mikhail Lomonosov. When Lomonosov observed the transit of Venus across the solar disk, he discovered a ring of light around the planet’s disk. He rightly assumed that this phenomenon could be caused by refraction of the sun’s rays in the dense Venusian atmosphere.
Venus‘ atmosphere consists of 96.5% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen, and traces of other gases. Thick clouds of sulfuric acid and water vapor cover the planet’s surface and reflect about 70% of the sunlight that reaches Venus. That is why this planet is so bright. How hot is Venus? The thick Venusian atmosphere, which traps heat, causes surface temperatures of more than 470 °C or 878 °F. That’s why Venus is hotter than Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun.
Because thick clouds hide the Venusian surface, people believed for a very long time that Venus was similar to Earth. This close planet has always been of interest to scientists and astronomers: over 40 spacecraft have explored Venus. The proximity to our planet will always make Venus a destination for future study and travel.
How long would it take to get to Venus?
To answer this question, we should first find out how far Venus is from Earth. Venus is the closest planet to Earth, although the distance between planets varies constantly as they move in their elliptical orbits around the Sun. At the closest approach to Earth, which occurs 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 path of a spacecraft determine the duration of the journey to Venus. Both NASA’s Mariner 2, sent to Venus in 1962, and the Soviet Union’s Venera 7, launched in 1970, took less than four months to reach the planet.
Interesting facts about Venus
Many novice astronomy enthusiasts wonder, „How many moons does Venus have“? In fact, Venus has no moons at all! Venus and Mercury are the only planets in the solar system that are not orbited by any natural satellites. Scientists suspect that Venus may have once formed a moon 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 rotate just once. Ironically, a Venusian day is longer than a Venusian year, since Venus takes 225 Earth days to complete one orbit around the Sun.
What is Venus made of? Unfortunately, little information is available about the internal structure of Venus. Because of the similarity in size and mass between Venus and Earth, scientists believe the planets share a similar interior. Venus probably has a crust, a rocky mantle, and a liquid core. However, the core may be solid or may not exist at all.
How big is Venus? With a diameter of 12,104 kilometers, this closest planet to the Sun is slightly smaller than Earth. Also, the mass of Venus is about 81% of that of our