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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  1. Pingback: Planets in the sky | Supernova Condensate

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