Venus, the Evening Star, is in her glory from June through August. Our neighbor is the second-brightest object in the entire night sky after the Moon! Discover 10 cool things about the Goddess of Love.
Seeing Venus in Summertime
Venus is the dazzling apparition that now dominates the western sky, shining a hundred times more brightly than the brightest stars.
Look for a super-bright “star” west the first few hours after sunset. Look around twilight. Don’t wait until it’s too dark. See the Almanac’s rise and set times for Venus and all the planets.
You’ll see Venus slowly brighten as 2018 grinds on. By September it will have twice the brilliance it has now. When the Evening Star reaches its maximum brightness, well, that’s when Venus lights up the west like a searchlight, the first hours after nightfall.
Venus’ creamy-white brilliance, from sunlight bouncing off shiny clouds of sulfuric acid, is oddly steady. She rarely twinkles.
Yet, Venus is dazzling enough to cast shadows when seen from a dark place. Wait for the first half of September for this, when there will be no Moon to compete.
- Despite the beautiful name, Venus is the most unpleasant planet in the known universe. Its surface temperature never varies from 850 degrees, hotter than a wood stove. The air is 100% carbon dioxide, trapping in the sun’s heat like a blanket. That’s why Venus manages to have a hotter surface than even Mercury. This was the original ‘greenhouse effect’ model long before that phrase’s current popularity.
- And Venus’ air pressure remains stuck at 90 Earth-pressures, making it the most efficient pressure-cooker in this neck of the galaxy. A few seconds would do it for beef stew.
- Sometimes called our “sister planet” since its diameter and density are nearly the same as ours, all family resemblance ends right there. Goddess of love, sure. As the night’s brightest “star”, it’s appropriate that it be forever associated with love. But this is strictly a “look but don’t touch” affair.
See more amazing facts about Venus, Planet of Paradox.
This Year’s UFO?
This makes people around the world go on a binge of misidentification. Venus alone accounts for more than half of all UFO reports. And they don’t all come from dimwits. My two favorite Venus stories:
- Jimmy Carter, while Governor of Georgia, phoned the state police to report a UFO that proved to be Venus!
- And a squadron of allied bombers returning from a mission over Japan in World War 2 saw a brilliant light that appeared to keep pace with them. Firing their guns, they attempted, without success, to blow up the Evening Star. At our Overlook Observatory phone and during public radio call-in shows, when someone begins a sentence with “I’ve been seeing a star….” I obnoxiously interrupt them with: “Venus!”
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