Venus

Venus has been a constant jewel in the evening sky recently, popping into view during twilight in the south west and burning with an astonishing intensity in the western skies after darkness.

I’ve been taking my telescope out a few evenings in a row to view the planet from kerb side and marvelled at how well resolved it is at high power.  It’s a half crescent right now, revealing a lovely hazy terminator where Venusian day meets night.  Eager to record its majesty,  I trained my video setup on it this evening, using leg stabilisers and a barrow to maximise the surface area per pixel captured on my Samsung’s CCD chip.  Here’s what I captured.

The visual scale of Venus is impressive here compared to general viewing with eyepiece observation.  This is one of the advantages of having a smaller CCD sensor.  Whilst more limited for large deep sky objects (without focal reduction) it permits big and bold presentations of the planets with just a modest x2 barlow lens.

Notice the pronounced atmospheric haze and refraction of light at the terminator between day and night.  Venus has a thick cloud covered atmosphere which is highly reflective – giving the planet its bright white appearance.  There’s also the slightest hint of mottling or streaking on the surface.  These fine streaks are large cloud structures that ebb and flow slowly within the Venusian atmosphere.

Not so long ago Venus was the target for many pulpy science fiction stories.  These authors imagined the planet full of swamps with dinosaurs and primitive tribes battling across vast continents.  These fantasies were shot down after robotic probe and satellite recognisance of the planet was undertaken, first by the Soviets and later NASA.

Our current understanding of Venus is that it’s a planetary embodiment of hell.  An atmosphere of nearly 96% carbon dioxide traps heat from the sun, raising the pressure to 92 times that of earth, with surface temperatures approaching those inside the finest Italian pizza ovens.  This pizza analogy would apply to any human making it all the way down to the surface of Venus!

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