You are here

Moon and Venus

May 24, 2014

One of the most beautiful sights in all the night sky is the pairing of Venus and the crescent Moon. Venus looks like a brilliant white star, outshining all the other planets and stars in the night sky. And the crescent Moon is a thin sliver, although Earthshine allows us to see its entire disk. And the pairing is visible in the glow of twilight, adding some color to the scene.

It’s a tableau that’s on display in the eastern sky early tomorrow. Venus will stand just below the Moon at first light.

Venus is named for the goddess of beauty, and it’s a vision of loveliness in our sky. But Venus would not be a lovely place to visit. Its atmosphere is thick, hot, and toxic.

Atmospheric pressure at the surface of Venus is about 90 times that here on Earth. That’s about the same as the pressure at a depth of 3,000 feet beneath the surface of the oceans on Earth — a pressure that only the sturdiest submersibles can withstand.

And the temperatures on Venus hover around 860 degrees Fahrenheit, day and night. That’s hot enough to melt lead. So any shelter that humans might set up on Venus would need to be heavy, made of a material that wouldn’t melt or soften, and cooled enough to keep its inhabitants from roasting alive. That’s such a big challenge that engineers haven’t even begun to tackle it. So for now, we’ll have to keep appreciating Venus from afar.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014

Get Premium Audio

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.