Venus, a quick, non complex look

Venus, a quick, non complex look

Named after the Roman Goddess of Love and our nearest planetary neighbour after our own natural satellite the Moon, it orbits a  t a mean distance of around 108 million kilometres from the Sun.

VENUS - A Quick non-complex Look!

Named after the Roman Goddess of Love and our nearest planetary neighbour after our own natural satellite the Moon, it orbits a  t a mean distance of around 108 million kilometres from the Sun.

The ancients saw Venus as a paradise, the home of the Goddess of Love and beauty etc. Some had it as a place of opulence with lush botanical growth and huge expanses of water filled swamp land, while others saw it as a vast desert (dune like) set ting with large mountains and valleys.

The folk in highplaces and of different cultures

in those ancient times had temples and other places of worship built solely to communicate with the Goddess ‘Aphrodite's’ and others whom they believed to reside on that jewel in the heavens. The Greeks for instance saw Venus as tw o (2) different heavenly bodies because at one time it could be seen in the evening and then at another time in the dawn. So, of course they had different names for them. The evening star they called ‘Hesperos’ and the morning star was given the name of ‘Phosporus’.

Venus to the Aztecs represented a deity known as ‘Quetzalcoatl’ a powerful feathered serpent god, while the ‘Maya’ saw it as a truly astronomical figure – their god ‘Kukulkan’ for them symbolized the birth and death of the universe. No doubt it was many things to many people – me, I find it a difficult object to gain reward from. To observe it, it is just too bright and featureless. Some reasonable views can be had on really clear days when Venus plays its part as the morning star and sits just in front of the sun, usually about or between 25-45o probably not much closer for safety sake.

I have observed it at different times, right up until about mid-day when the sun is either too bright or too hot to be out in. One must be really careful not to target ‘Sol’ (the Sun) without the right filters by accident as that can turn you eye into a boiled egg in an instant, not very pleasant eh! It’s good to position yourself where you can be in the shade and observe from there. Early dawn and evening are good times to view but don’t expect too much. See what you can see, then ‘Google’ it!

One or two points I guess:

  1. Venus is twice as close to earth as is Mars at their closest approach point, which makes Venus a closer target for study by telescope. With all the publicity Venus gets how can people still point at it and ask ‘what is that really bright star?’ or ‘what is that really bright light over there?’ Whee have they been? It is currently at about -3.8 mag but has been in excess of -4.2mag and after the Sun at -26 and the Moon at -12.5mag it is the third brightest object in our heavens. Come on guys!!! Open up your lovely big eyes and have a look! Anyway, we can only wonder how clearly the ancients saw Venus in the pristine skies of those times unspoilt by the utter ‘stupidity’ of those who control street lighting, advertising and sports venue illumination these days. Oh well, that’s another story for another time. It is however said that ignorance begets ignorance! My personal battle on this front still continues with not much intelligence apparent across my side fence at this stage. Napoleon (and he had the same mentality as my neighbours) was quite thrilled to find that his guests at one of his many parties attributed the tiny speck which was Venus (visible to the naked eye) to him after initially being put out by them gazing into the heavens instead of at their host. On being told however of their obvious good intentions, the good times rolled on with the ‘Little General’ in a much better frame of mind (pompous little ahhh! Individual eh!). You know the ancients already knew of the planets from the Sun out to Saturn but Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered after the advent of the telescope. However, they all saw Venus as we see it now as a -3.8 mag object in our dawn sky slowly sinking toward the Sun mentioned above. It will re-appear as the ‘evening star’ in a couple of months. Wouldn’t it be good if the nice things in our lives happened with the same regularity as these celestial events. With reference to the ‘Women from Venus’ and ‘Men from Mars’ thing, (god I’m on shaky ground here, eh!). My granddaughter dropped Venus like the hot rock that it is when she learned of its retrograde action and inhospitable surface etc. I don’t know that she has adopted, if anything but ‘Venus’ it is not! Smart girl I reckon!
  1. We learnt some of the secrets of Venus with the early American and Russian probes but were able to add a lot more data to the Venus portfolio with the Magellan Space Craft and its ability to radar image the planets surface. What it found was an inhospitable and deadly place with extremes in temperature that can reach 800-900oF and an atmosphere pressure that is similar to being 2 kilometres under our oceans. The present surface make-up of Venus is relatively young as things go – no one really knows what happened out there and Venus isn’t saying but it would seem that around 500 05 600 million ye4ars ago something wiped away the planets early history – the past seems to have disappeared to be replaced by relatively young topography.

The surface of the planet has huge lava plains with long deep winding channels, lava domes and a strange feature called ‘Coronae’ caused perhaps by rocky material pushed up to the surface by subterranean pressures, while still molten unlike the badly damaged surfaces of the Moon or Mercury due to the various bombardment periods. Venus has relatively few craters around a thousand have been identified at this point of any significant size. Where as the Moon (a lot smaller body) has around 350,000 craters (over 1km wide) on the visible side alone.

While it is understood that Venus has a very ‘thick’ atmosphere to protect it from some impacts and lava flows would have flooded much more of its early damage there still doesn’t seem to be enough craters, so again what ever happened was pretty large and wasn’t all that long ago (astronomically speaking).

Speaking of atmosphere’s this would be a good time to state the difference between Earth and Venus’s atmosphere. Earths atmosphere is made up of mostly Nitrogen at 78%, Oxygen 21% with other gases such as Argon, Neon, Helium, Krypton, Xenon, Carbon Dioxide, water vapour and Ozone making up 1%. Where as Venus has an atmosphere as deadly to us as any ‘Gas Chamber’ we could manufacture with 96% Carbon Dioxide, 3% Nitrogen, some Argon and traces of water vapour, Hydrogen Sulphide and Carbon Monoxide which all add up to a runaway ‘Green House’ effect.

The Russian scientist Mickail Lomonosou noted the atmosphere of Venus (or at least that it had one) during the 1761 transit of Venus across the Sun. He spotted the atmospheric ‘Halo’ around the black disc of the planet as it passed onto and off the ‘Solar Disc’. Venus transits the Sun twice in a century usually once to the north and once to the south on the Solar Disc and in pairs 8 years apart. Captain James Cook voyaged to the Northern Pacific Ocean in 1761 to Tahiti to witness the event on behalf of the British Navy/Government. There has already been one transit this century in 2004 with the next one taking place in 2012 on the northern portion of the Solar Disc.

Visitors to Venus although not all successful have been the pioneer, Venera, Marina, Vega and Magellan Space Craft in a period from 1978 to 1994 as well as and most importantly the ‘Venus Express’ which arrived there in 2006.

Radar mapping is through necessity the main methods of researching the planets surface in conjunction with other methods to learn the compositions of surface features. It is however very difficult to see through the layer of ever present clouds in visible light frequencies and they, (the clouds) even make viewing the surface with ultra violet scans very difficult.

The temperature of Venus exceeds that of Mercury although the latter is closer to the Sun. The temperature on the surface of Venus is, (as already stated) somewhere between 800 and 900oF or around 470oC, hot enough to melt lead or zinc. This is of course also caused by runaway ‘Green House’ effect on the planets atmosphere. Wind on Venus although fairly weak on the surface is a very strong 350km/hr in the cloud tops. The clouds sit about 48-50km above the surface and are made up almost entirely of Sulphuric Acid droplets. Any water on Venus is in the clouds as vapour and if it were to be spread evenly over the entire surface it would only be a few centimetres deep (around 30cm). Where as on Earth after the same exercise the depth would be around 3km, that is a vast difference for two planets that maybe could have been ‘twins’. I suppose with Earth being in the ‘sweet spot’ and Venus and Mars sharing the two edges, we are just lucky to be where we are. It is certainly a tall order to hope to find a world like ours any time soon. Maybe we need to get over ourselves and start to care for this one! Water is definitely the key ingredient and there seems now, to be no doubt of the presence of water-ice on Mars. So if there ever was water on Venus in quantity ‘what happened?’ Did the planet get hit by something really large in just the ‘wrong’ spot or did the more scientific view that the different spin velocities between the inner core, the mantle and the atmosphere have a breaking effect on the planet over time. What ever it was Venus now rotates very slowly in a retrograde motion that takes 243 Earth days to do one revolution which is 18 days longer than it takes to orbit the Sun once! That is to say that if you were on Venus you would see the Sun rise in the west to set in the east some 59 days (Earth time) later.

So enough of that, did you know that all the features on Venus are named after ‘you girls’ not us blokes, with the exception of ‘Maxwell Montes’ a large mountain range which was named to honour a Scotch Physicist one James Clerk Maxwell. Quite an honour I would expect given the competition.

The orbit of Venus is almost a perfect circle with an error or eccentricity of only 1%, where as the other planets have a more elliptical orbit. As earlier stated Venus is easily viewed in a small telescope as are the rest out to Saturn. Uranus and Neptune may be found in moderate scopes but Pluto is easier if an image is taken tonight to be compared with one taken the following night for example. Pluto will of course be the speck that moved, it is after all around 32 AU distant (one (1) AU = 93 million miles). It’s hard to think of Venus as the ‘Mega not cool place’ in our neck of the woods as it is pretty spectacular just to look at it unaided hanging in the morning or evening sky, in fact that’s probably the best way to view Venus. It is around the same size as our home planet (just a little smaller) and was formed out of the same disc, from the same Nebula and as said before is on the edge of ‘the sweet spot’ which supports us so nicely. Let’s not get too carried away, I guess as on the surface of Venus you would weigh and incredible 90 times what you weigh here on Earth, ouch! What a place for a weight watches business, eh!

The huge ground based antenna in Puerto Rico, 310 meters of it was first to radar ‘investigate’ the Venusian surface in the 1970’s and I think the most recent probe was the Venus Express with rumbles of renewed efforts by NASA and the Russian Space Agency to come in the near future (a decade or so).

The planet was formed, one would assume, around the same time as Earth about 4.5 billion years ago and was subjected to the same bombardment periods as us. So again, what happened??? What we have now is a ‘Super Hot’ hell hole covered with volcanoes all spitting lava and noxious gas into an already bad atmosphere. These volcanoes, although some are really large with dimensions of 8km high and 20km diameter, most resemble the volcanoes on Hawaii, just big round pudding shaped structures with lava overflowing from the top and sides to form lava flows to the surrounding plains.

Two main land masses have been detected and named after women of course. They are both of continental size and listed as follows. In the northern hemisphere we have ‘Ishtar Terra’ a large piece of raised terrain some 2km above the surrounding lava plains about the size of ‘Australia’ and lying northward from the equator. The other fits a similar description and is called ‘Aphrodites Terra’. This land mass is in the southern hemisphere and about the size of ‘Africa’. Other features besides the two (2) main land masses and ‘Monts Maxwell’ are volcanic domes and smaller mountains scattered all over the lava plains as well as large fissure like channels and lava flows but again, don’t get excited. None of these will ever be viewed from Earth in our conventional telescopes.

Again, I will put my ‘oar’ in and suggest that maybe Venus can wait to be visited one day when our ‘Space Craft’ are a whole heap better and humans themselves can have a look at it instead of all these robotic instruments we keep sending to do our work for us. I realize that it’s a ‘money’ thing but those dollars could be better spent in another direction (if direction is relevant in this case). Mars probably has a whole lot more to offer both for exploration and possible future return on ‘capitol’ spent and as before stated we already know there is ‘water-ice’ by the shipload ready to supply our early needs in water, fuel and air etc.

Venus Express and its fore bares have done a splendid job on our behalf and have returned more than enough data to keep those interested happy and indeed busy for a fair while to come. Let’s keep our eye on the ball, as I’ve said before Governments have only to put up the funds and others, a whole heap more capable will do the job! That may seem over simplified but it really does come down to a few basic facts. All countries with the ability must step up, not just NASA or ESA etc. The vast sums of money required for these ventures must come from the human race as a whole and not just one or two countries. Ways must be found to ensure that the budget allocated to these projects goes to the projects concerned and are not rerouted to someone else’s pet project as is sometimes the case. Regardless of that, we’ve still journeyed this far and we’ll go on to wherever we are destined to go. All we, as a race need to do is get at it and cease the procrastination and inaction we seem to continually bog ourselves down in. Get over all the petty differences we use as excuses to ‘hate’ each other and pull together for ‘mankind’s’ sake and maybe, just maybe my kids, kids will go interplanetary this century.

Well, that’s all from me folks, if you would like more on ‘Venus’ I suggest you ‘Google’ it! There’s a lot of scientific stuff there that makes good reading.

See you all next time, eh!