With an atmospheric pressure 90 times greater than that on Earth and a temperature of 450 degrees Celsius, any man who dared venture onto the surface of Venus would be squashed as flat as a beer mat and baked like a turkey. And don’t be fooled by the planet’s uplands either, named after the Greek and Babylonian goddesses of love and fertility, Aphrodite and Ishtar, this place is still hell. If this is where women come from, it’s no wonder they have migrated to Earth to have their children.
The clouds that envelope and heat up this planetary furnace are highly reflective and make the planet the brightest in the sky, thereby tricking the Greeks into thinking it was a beacon of love, a misconception perpetuated by unscrupulous astrologers who should know better. If this planet has any effect on human affairs, it can only be a baleful one based on deception.
The true beauty of Venus lies in what it revealed to Galileo when he first inspected it through a telescope. He discovered that it had phases just like the moon, something that could only be explained if it orbited the sun. Galileo’s discovery provided the first tangible evidence for the radical theories of Copernicus that placed the sun at the centre of the solar system.
And within that phase cycle lies a curious paradox. As Venus wanes from full illumination to a crescent, it actually gets brighter! This is because it is approaching the Earth at the same time and increasing in apparent size. The waning and waxing of Venus can be watched throughout the months of December and January and is a beautiful thing to view though a telescope.
This blog first appeared as an article for Cairo BCA Magazine in December, 2010, to encourage residents in Egypt to visit Sinai for star gazing and astronomy lessons using an 8″ Meade Telescope.