Discovering the face of Earth’s sister planet, Venus, beneath its cloudy veil.
“Now, Venus is an extremely hostile environment, and as such presents a lot of challenges for a science fiction author who wants to create life there. However, as I began to research it more thoroughly, I found myself intrigued by the possibilities the world offers.” –Sarah Zettel
As the brightest planet in the night sky and closest planet to Earth (at closest approach), Venus — at almost our identical size and composition — has long been regarded as Earth’s sister. But whereas Earth’s thin atmosphere and distance from the Sun allows for liquid water on our planet’s surface, Venus’ carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid atmosphere, 90 times as thick as Earth’s and covered in constant layers of clouds, has become a cosmic oven. At constant surface temperatures, day-or-night, of 465°C (870 °F), it’s hot enough to melt lead on its surface. The only spacecrafts to land and take pictures on Venus (the Soviet Venera landers) lasted mere seconds before roasting.
Over the past few months, you may have noticed Venus shining brightly in the evening sky, far outshining even Jupiter, which makes its closest angular approach to Venus in 2,000 years on Tuesday evening. As you watch the spectacular visual that this conjunction provides, think about the magnificent, intricate surface beneath the atmosphere, visible only either beneath the cloudy cover of our sister planet or through the atmosphere itself, by observing its surface from above in the infrared.