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Word Art: Venus [Astronomy Series]

This one, of course, confuses from a distance because the symbol for the planet Venus is also the common symbol for “female.”  It probably didn’t help that I used the purple ink for this one–though I could have gone the distance and made the thing pink.



Morning star and evening star.

The brightest night in our night sky, aside from our Moon.

Seen and named by many ancient observers.

The Babylonians called it Nindaranna and a record of its appearances over a twenty-one year period is one of the oldest surviving astronomical documents in existence.

The Mayans had detailed records of its coming and going and called it Chak-ek–the Great Star.

They timed everything from religious ceremonies to wars based on what they deemed auspicious positions.

The Ancient Greeks named it Phosphorus when it was in the morning skyscape and Hesperus when it shone at night.

In China, it is known as Jinxing and it is linked to the element of metal.

India named it after the saint Shukra.

The Yolgnu of Northern Australia mark its rising as a time to speak to the souls of those who have passed on.

The Maasai called it Kileken and it is the subject of a folk tale.

Transits of Venus are rare and strangely precious things.

The voyage to Tahiti embarked on by Captain Cook in 1769 was in part to observe the Transit of Venus from that one spot on the globe.

The mission was deemed of such importance that France’s ships were commanded to hold their fire against Cook’s ships.

The data collected there, in combination with observations from North America and Europe, gave us our first impressions of the space that lay between Earth and the Sun.

The transit of eight years prior showed observers the possibility of an atmosphere on this planet.

An atmosphere so thick, it turned out, that it crushed the many sent probes from the space program of the USSR.

The Venera (the word for Venus in Russian) probes include the first man-made object to land on the surface of another planet.

(Crash-landed, mind you, but still it landed.)

Another of the Venera probes was the first man-made probe to transmit data from the surface.

(Unfortunately, it was stuck so that the only information it was able to transmit was the temperature–65° C or 869° F.)

Another was first to transmit visual images and, later, the first color images from the surface of the planet.

None of them survived more than an hour at most on the surface before rendered mute by the pressures from the atmosphere (and the limits of their batteries.)

The heat of the surface is a result of the Greenhouse Effect as was calculated around 1960 by a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

(His name was Carl Sagan.  Maybe you’ve heard of him?)

It has been thought by some that the greenhouse effect was the reason that the planet no longer has oceans to speak of–that the heat was such to cause the oceans to evaporate into steam that was further broken down into its elements and that much of the resulting hydrogen was lost to the void of space, since it has no magnetic field to deflect the solar wind.

The surface is mostly volcanic and shows no signs of any plate tectonics, as on Earth.

There are two elevated regions which are considered continents (even without oceans to bound them.)

One is called Ishtar Terra and the other is known as Andromeda Terra.

Most of the features on the surface of the planet, in fact, have been given the names of women from mythology and history.

(One exception is Maxwell Montes, named after James Clark Maxwell.  It is, true to form, the tallest of mountains on the surface of the planet.)

The rotation is retrograde from its orbit, unlike most planets in the Solar System.

The orbit is nearly circular, with only 0.01 eccentricity.

A day on Venus measured by the sun would be shorter than a day measured by the rotation.

A year is roughly two days, depending on how it is calculated.

For reasons undiscerned, the intervals between nearness to the Earth (when it passes from evening star to morning star) are the equivalent of exactly five days in solar days there.

No rainfall reaches the surface, though rain can fall, composed of sulfuric acid, it just evaporates well before it ever reaches the ground.

There can be lightning, though, most likely generated by ash from volcanic eruptions.

The thick cloud layer kept the surface from our eyes long enough that many speculated that life might exist there.

Our explorations, at first with radio waves and later with probes, ultimately silenced those notions.

Colonization seems rather unlikely, but anything remains possible with time.

Did I mention that Wikipedia was my friend?  The mention of the Venera probes linked to a detailed entry that listed every mission in the program, when it was launched, how long the probe survived and more.  I generally picked out the facts and information in order of what was interesting to me and got better at sifting through things as I progressed further out into the solar system.  The results would be lousy as an elementary school science report, but they work well enough as the background for this particular illustration.

Prints of this work are available here.

The original is not for sale.

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