Venusian Sunset

There’s something just lovely about the evening. A cool breeze against your skin, the Sun dips slowly below the horizon, as planets blaze brightly in the sky with reflected Sunlight. It’s easy to forget entirely that Earth too, is a planet. We wouldn’t look so different, seen in the evening sky of another world. So take a moment to consider… What might you see in the evening if you were drifting in the cloud decks of planet Venus?

Quite possibly something a bit like this. This is my best attempt at an artists impression of a Venusian sunset. Many people don’t realise, but around 50-60 km above the surface of Earth’s twisted sister you can find the most Earth-like conditions in the whole solar system. Above those vitriolic clouds, you’ll find temperatures and pressures which wouldn’t be out of place here on our own world.

The highly reflective yellowish clouds beneath you would be completely continuous, stratified by the high speed winds whipping around the planet. The atmospheric haze would continue upwards a little above the clouds, but the sky overhead would probably appear dark blue. Venus’ upper atmosphere should scatter light the same way Earth’s upper atmosphere does. A few high altitude cirrus clouds might drift above you. No sunlight penetrates undiluted beneath the clouds, and the setting sun would appear to diffuse as it sank below the dense cloud layers. Due to the denser atmosphere the light would pass through as it reached the horizon, the sunset on Venus would probably be a lot redder than it is on Earth.

Looking up to the sky, the most obvious planet you could see would be Earth. With most of the sunlit side of Earth’s shiny reflective atmosphere facing towards you on Venus, Earth would shine brilliantly with a faintly blue light. In fact, Earth seen from Venus would appear brighter than Venus does from Earth. Also clearly visible would be Earth’s moon, also shining brightly and causing Earth to appear as a double star. Mercury too, would appear much brighter from Venus, being that much closer. It would appear through binoculars to go through phases the same way Venus does from Earth and, at its brightest, Mercury would be just as bright as Earth’s moon.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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12 Responses to Venusian Sunset

  1. Pingback: Planets in the sky | Supernova Condensate

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very nice artistic impressions. Of course from Venus surface you will see nothing. But above the clouds, it looks nice but there will be no atmosphere to give colors to the sky and they will be completely black. Maybe somewhere above the dense clouds but where there is still enough atmosphere to scatter light? I wonder…
    Look here for a collection of Earth form space. One of them shows Earth and Moon from Mercury and is quite similar to what you did!

  3. 6_bleen_7 says:

    I believe Aristarchus’ reasoning was based partly on an early estimate for the distance of the Sun from the Earth, something like 12 million km—a severe underestimate but still distant enough to imply that the Sun was larger than the Earth. Odd that this seemed to have been lost or downplayed, like Eratosthenes’ (nearly correct) estimate of the Earth’s circumference, which might have dissuaded Columbus if it had been the accepted value instead of one that was about 10,000 km too small.

  4. invaderxan says:

    Indeed, any good mathematician, seeing the Earth and Moon from Venus would have been able to calculate that quite easily. Also, not having a moon which, by remarkable coincidence, happens to be the exact same angular size as the Sun would have probably helped!

  5. invaderxan says:

    Asimov really was a genius. Thnks — that’s another thing I need to dig up to add to my reading list!
    The curious thing is, not all cultures were always geocentric. Certain ancient Greek phliosophers suggested a heliocentric model (including, I think, Aristarchus). If not for Ptolemy, you have to wonder if a geocentric model would have even been adopted. It’s rather interesting that there are so many unusual things about the Earth’s situation which have served to greatly hinder early scientific progress…

  6. invaderxan says:


  7. invaderxan says:

    I’m glad you like it!

  8. 6_bleen_7 says:

    Isaac Asimov wrote a science essay on this; I think it was called “The Tragedy of the Moon” (which is also the title of an essay compilation that contains it). A big problem with the Moon is that it really does orbit the Earth; so without it, the idea of Earth-at-the-center would be missing that huge piece of evidence in its favor.

  9. I wonder how different the history of astronomy would’ve been if there’d been a planet-moon system close enough to us to be visible to the naked eye? Certainly would’ve made a really big piece of evidence in favor of the heliocentric view, observing the regular motion of the moon relative to the planet, and observing how it follows a continual period, while the angular distance changes according to the apparent angular distance between said planet and the Sun. Would’ve been a strong argument in favor of the idea that the distance between the Earth and that planet was dependent on the relative angles between Earth-Sun-that planet, thus that planet orbited the Sun rather than the Earth!

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