July 26, 2021

Why is NASA going back to Venus?

Venus is for us the Shepperd’s Star. As it is never too far from the sun, we can only see it in the late afternoon or early in the morning. Thus, the ancients thought they were seeing two different objects, one east of the sun, Vesper (meaning “evening”, after sunset), and another west of the sun, Lucifer (meaning “lightbringer”, announcing the sunrise). It wasn’t until the 6th century BC that the Greek philosopher Pythaghoras showed, following its motion along the year, that it was the same object. Because it is the third brightest object in the sky, after only the sun and the moon, they named it after Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. In Latin, Venus

Venus is so bright because it is very close to us. It orbits our star at 72% of the distance the Earth does; its year counts 225 days, to Earth’s 365. Venus is also about the same size as the Earth: its diameter is about 95% the Earth’s. At this distance from the sun, and having roughly the same mass, Venus and Earth are often considered twin planets. Pre-space age, drawings of Venus imagined a balmy planet, with tropical swamps and megafauna.