Listen to today's episode of StarDate on the web the same day it airs in high-quality streaming audio without any extra ads or announcements. Choose a $8 one-month pass, or listen every day for a year for just $30.
You are here
Moon and Venus
Venus is continuing its slow return to view as the “evening star.” It stands to the lower right of the Moon about 30 minutes after sunset. The planet is quite low in the sky, though, so any obstructions along the horizon will block it from view.
The surface of Venus is rugged. Almost all of it consists of volcanic rock. For a while, the leading idea said the entire surface was repaved by a massive outpouring of molten rock several hundred million years ago.
But studies in the last decade or so have presented a more nuanced view of the planet. Different rock formations appear to have been deposited at different times, with some formations lying atop others.
And there’s pretty good evidence that Venus is volcanically active even today. Blocks of rock that are miles wide appear to be shifting around. They look like blocks of ice moving atop an ocean or sea here on Earth. That suggests the blocks are floating atop molten rock not far below the surface.
Orbiting spacecraft have seen “hotspots” on the surface that could be active eruptions. They’ve also “sniffed” elements in the upper atmosphere that probably came from recent volcanic eruptions.
Together, these findings suggest that it took a long time to repave the surface of Venus — perhaps a billion years or longer — and that the process isn’t done yet.
Again, look for Venus close to the Moon shortly after sunset. The brilliant planet will inch its way higher into the evening sky over the coming weeks.