This was one of the first ever close-up photographs of Venus, captured by NASA’s Pioneer Venus spacecraft. You might be amazed to know that spacecraft have actually landed on the surface of Venus and sent pictures back. This is a false-color image of Venus taken by the Venus Monitoring Camera on board ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. February 14, 2012 by Brian Ventrudo In 1610, with his small telescope, Galileo first saw the planets Venus and Mercury moving through a cycle of phases much like our own Moon. Like Galileo, you can easily follow the phases of Venus and Mercury as they cycle through the morning and evening skies. When Venus, for example, lies on the far side of the Sun from Earth, the planet is fully illuminated from our point of view. When Venus is almost closest to Earth, on the near side of the Sun, it’s about 60 million kilometres away. In between the planet can appear half-lit, like the first-quarter Moon, and in various gibbous phases. Of course, the planet cannot be observed when it is directly between the Sun and the Earth. Mercury exhibits the same series of phases, though it moves through the cycle more quickly, in approximately 116 days, because of its speedier orbit around the Sun. Some unconfirmed reports, in modern and ancient times, suggest some sharp-eyed observers have observed the extremely slim and bright crescent phases of Venus without optical aid! The Venus Climate Orbiter mission (PLANET-C), one of the future planetary missions of Japan, aims at understanding the atmospheric circulation of Venus. The brilliant planet Venus is now a beautiful evening "star" in the late-fall twilight, shining brightly in the southwest through the purple dusk. Weather permitting, Venus is the first planet night sky observers can spot, and it is even visible before sunset if you know just where to look in the southwest sky. Venus is brightening too, since it is speeding toward Earth as it catches up to us in its faster, inner orbit around the sun.
As Venus travels around the sun inside the Earth's orbit, it alternates regularly from evening to morning sky and back. Wednesday November 6, the Moon passes just north of the planet Venus, making a pretty pair in the southwestern sky. To the ancients, such behavior was puzzling and was not really understood until the time of the famed 17th century astronomy Galileo Galilee. After several more months, Venus appeared in the shape of a crescent — in other words, it seemed to display the same behavior as the phases of the moon.
Venus wanders only a limited distance east or west of the sun, since, like Mercury, it is an "inferior" planet (orbiting the sun more closely than Earth does). When Venus is on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth, it appears full (or nearly so) and rather small because it is far away. Ultimately, as Venus prepares to pass between the Earth and the sun it appears as a thinning crescent. Venus appears so bright now that it can be seen easily with the naked eye in a deep blue, haze-free afternoon sky.

Venus is now a bright “evening star” setting just after the Sunday It is at greatest eastern elongation on Nov. By this time, Venus is less than 27 million miles from the Earth and is becoming more and more aligned between our planet and the sun. By this time, Venus can be found about 3 degrees above the horizon a half-hour before sunrise. In February, NASA's STEREO probes, two observatories that were launched in 2006 to survey the sun, reached opposite ends of the sun and thus, were able to give scientists (and the rest of us!) a never-before-seen view of the far side of the star at the center of our solar system. Some pictures of Venus have been taken from here on Earth, while other Venus pics have been taken from spacecraft orbiting the planet.
It shows the entire surface of the planet, imaged by the spacecraft’s radar instrument, which can penetrate the thick clouds to reveal the surface below.
Planetary scientists used the radar data captured by Magellan to build up 3-dimensional images of the planet’s surface. It’s actually a false color image made from ultraviolet images of the planet Venus by the spacecraft. The Soviets sent a fleet of Venera spacecraft to Venus, and several actually made it down to the surface. This observation finally killed the ancient Ptolemaic view of the solar system, which held the Earth as the centre of the universe.
But its disk is small, just 10″ across, because the planet is nearly 300 million kilometres away. Then it appears as a slender but much brighter crescent with a disk nearly 50″ across. But in rare circumstances, the dark disks of Venus and Mercury can transit the face of the Sun. Meteorological information will be obtained by globally mapping clouds and minor constituents successively with 4 cameras at ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, detecting lightning with a high-speed imager, and observing the vertical structure of the atmosphere with radio science technique. The planet is gaining altitude in the twilight, boldly showing itself off after six months of hiding behind any inconvenient obstructions near the southwestern horizon. They named the morning star after Phosphorus, the harbinger of light, and the evening star for Hesperus, the son of Atlas.
After moving to Pisa in the autumn of 1610, Galileo started observing Venus through his crude telescope. This was a major discovery, which ultimately helped to deliver a deathblow to the long-held concept of an Earth-centered universe. Watching its movement is akin to watching an auto race from the grandstand: All the action takes place in front of you and it’s necessary to turn only a limited amount either way to see it at all.
But because Venus moves with a greater velocity around the sun than the Earth, it gradually gets closer and looms progressively larger in apparent size.
And since at this point in its orbit it is nearly six times closer to us compared to when it was on the opposite side of the Sun, it appears much larger to us as well. It continues to approach the Earth while appearing to curve back in toward the Sun in our sky. 21, Disk 12-percent illuminated: The crescent of Venus continues to narrow, but because it also continues to approach our Earth, it appears to greatly lengthen as well.
Can you make out the crescent's "cusp extensions" — the thread-like wisps of light extending beyond the crescent's points?

28, Disk only 6-percent illuminated: It is now critical to try and locate Venus as early as possible when it is still high in the sky in a steady atmosphere. 11, Inferior Conjunction: Venus will finally transition from an evening to morning star and will appear to pass between the Earth and the sun on this day. A line from the star Deneb, in Cygnus through the star Altair, in Aquila points right at it.
He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer's Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y.
You might be surprised to know that spacecraft have even landed on Venus (they didn’t last long), and took images of Venus from the surface.
Magellan was launched from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Atlantis in May 1989, and arrived at Venus on August 10, 1990. The Pioneer Venus Orbiter went into orbit around Venus on December 4, 1978, and released several probes into Venus’ atmosphere to study it. Here’s a color photograph of Venus captured by the Venera 13 spacecraft, which landed on the surface of Venus on March 3, 1982. And it helped bolster the Copernican view of the solar system with the Sun at the centre and the Earth taking its place as the third rock from the Sun. The equatorial elongated orbit with westward revolution fits the observations of the movement and temporal variation of the Venusian atmosphere which rotates westward. It was the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras who first realized that Phosphorus and Hesperus was one and the same object. In contrast, for "superior" planets (those located in orbits beyond the Earth from the sun), viewers on Earth are like the pit crews inside the racetrack who must turn in all directions to follow the cars.
The angle of sunlight striking it as seen from our Earthly vantage point also appears to change as well.
The greatest amount of illuminated surface area combined with a moderately large angular size makes Venus now appear truly dazzling, shining 25 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star and setting nearly three hours after the sun.
In a telescope it is now a big, beautiful crescent that grows larger and thinner with each passing night.
Its disk appears 25-percent illuminated and about 35 percent larger in size than it did just one month ago.
It's now 29 million miles away, but is also now in a rapid plunge down the sky toward the sun.
After another week you should see it easily from anywhere with an open east-southeastern view 45 minutes to an hour before sunrise.
The systematic, continuous imaging observations will provide us with an unprecedented large dataset of the Venusian atmospheric dynamics. At sunset as seen from mid-northern latitudes, Venus stands about 15 degrees above the southwest horizon and sets about 100 minutes later. Additional targets of the mission are the exploration of the ground surface and the observation of zodiacal light.
The mission will complement the ESA's Venus Express, which also explores the Venusian environment with different approaches.

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