The Morning Star
Or The Evening Star...
Actually It's Venus The Planet
Venus the planet of clouds is often referred to as
the morning or evening star. This is because Venus
is typically visible just before sunrise or
just after sunset.
Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky
after the moon and is the planet closest to Earth.
The planet appears so bright because of the dense cloud cover.
These clouds reflect a greater portion of sunlight making
Venus incredibly luminous.
Unfortunately, these same clouds keep backyard stargazers
and the pros too from seeing details of the planet's surface.
Radar images of Venus' surface reveal it to have craters
and a few volcanoes. Venus the planet surface is believed
to be fairly young as the impact craters are not very numerous.
When viewed through a telescope, or even good
binoculars, Venus can be seen to go through
phases like the moon
Nearly any telescope will show these phases easily.
When nearest to Earth, just to one side or the other
of the Sun in our sky, Venus shows a slender crescent phase
that can actually be seen through 7-power binoculars.
As it continues in its orbit, Venus pulls away from Earth,
shrinking in apparent size, but broadening to a half phase.
Finally, Venus widens to a gibbous phase before moving behind the Sun.
As Venus pops out from the other side and moves farther away
from the Sun in our sky, the order of phases reverses.
When Venus is moving toward the Earth, the planet can be seen in the early evening.
When moving away from the Earth, Venus is visible in the early morning.
It has an atmosphere that can be seen in a telescope by the halo
of light refracted around the planet.
To help reveal Venus' phases, you can filter your telescope with
colored filters to tone down the brightness.
You can find a
Orion Basic Set of Four Color Filters, 1.25" here.
Because of the thick cloud cover Venus gets hotter than
although Mercury is closer to the Sun.
The planet Venus spins in a retrograde way from its orbit.
Compared to the other planets Venus spins backwards and
the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
Venus also, like Mercury rotates quite slowly on its axis.
The Venusian day is longer than a Venusian year.
Venus rotates about once every 243 Earth days.
A Venusian sidereal day thus lasts longer than a Venusian year (243 versus 224.7 Earth days).
However, because of Venus's retrograde rotation, the length of a solar day on Venus
is significantly shorter than the sidereal day.
To an observer on the surface of Venus the time from one sunrise to the next
would be 116.75 Earth days (making Venus's solar day shorter than Mercury's 176 Earth days).
Venus the planet also travels in a nearly circular orbit. All the other planets orbits
are a lot more elliptical.
venus the planet to planets homepage
Constellations and backyard stargazing