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Title: About Venus Date Published: 5/01/2001 by Clarke Fountain
Bio: Clarke Fountain

Clarke Fountain has been studying astrology with varying levels of intensity since the 1960s, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and gave his first professional reading in 1977 in San Francisco. After years of doing every kind of job under the sun, he earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the Naropa Institute (as it was then called) in 1989 and at that time became involved with aspects of publishing. Astrology has been one of the few consistent threads in his otherwise extremely varied life, and he is delighted to have the opportunity to serve the astrological community as the Editor for "Astro Talk Online Astrological Magazine."

In Astronomy

The word “Venus” conjures up much that is pleasant, images of romance and so on. Warm, slightly humid evenings in late Spring. Venus as the Evening Star. But there is a harsher side to just the word “Venus” as witnessed by its use in the phrase “venereal diseases.” The planet itself is earth's near-twin in age, size, mass and composition - but if it is a twin, something went horribly, horribly wrong during its birth, because the planet Venus is a truly forbidding place.

Venus

The high surface temperature of Venus during its long day is easily hot enough to melt lead at 900 Fahrenheit or 475 Celsius. It is almost twice the distance from the Sun than Mercury is, but is much hotter than that planet. All of the free water has long since boiled away from its surface, and the atmosphere about 95% carbon dioxide. It has a thick cloud cover of sulphuric acid, and the weight of its atmosphere is so great that its surface pressure is 90 times greater than at Earth's sea-level. An unprotected human on the surface (if he could somehow get there) would last at most a few moments before being char-broiled, crushed by the atmosphere, and melted by its acid. These qualities contrast strongly with the pleasant images popularized by Edgar Rice Burroughs and other pulp science-fiction writers working in the early part of the 20th century.

One “good” thing about Venus' heavy atmosphere is that small meteors don't make it to the surface of the planet, breaking into dust or insignificant pieces long before. According to the evidence gathered by the U.S.'s Mariner and Magellan spacecraft, and Russia's Venera spacecraft, only quite large meteors ever make it to the surface. Only one spacecraft (Venera 9) triumphantly survived descent through Venus' extraordinarily harsh atmosphere long enough to land and send several pictures - a few minutes!

There are other odd and memorable things about Venus, too. Its day is slightly longer than its year. In fact, it is exactly long enough so that Venus always presents the same side of the planet to Earth's view during its closest approach (perigee). It is the only planet that, when viewed from above its North pole, rotates clockwise. It has the most nearly circular orbit of any of the planets. Despite being very likely to have a molten iron core just as the Earth does, Venus has no discernible magnetic field - possibly a consequence of its extremely slow rotation.

In light of the ancient ideal of perfect circularity, Venus has the most “perfect” (nearly circular) orbit of any of the planets. In this respect it definitely lives up to the ideal of beauty. One could say that, having a very high albedo (reflectivity - 0.57) and being the brightest star-like object visible to the naked eye, it lives up to the ideal in this regard as well.

Because Venus is an “inferior” planet (closer to the Sun than the Earth is), it goes through phases much like our Moon - a feature first observed by Galileo, and one that strongly supported Copernicus' assertion that the planets circled around the Sun. As one of the brightest celestial objects, its appearance as the Morning or Evening Star (Eosphorus or Hesperus, respectively) has been noted since humans first observed the skies. Its nearness to the Sun (it never moves more than 49 degrees away from it) is also a factor in its prominence at sunrise and sunset.

In Western Astrology

Traditionally, Venus is called The Lesser Benefic, and contacts between Venus and other planets, even harsh aspects can be considered to be somewhat favorable depending on rulerships, etc. Leaving aside Central American lore about the planet for the moment, it is still considered to have rulership over what brings contentment, and signifies what we find beautiful or attractive. Relationships and bonding-through-desire are part of the significance here. By “desire,” I am simply referring to inclination, as Venus does not only have to do with romance - or lust. Indeed, in traditional and ancient astrology, other planets (the Moon, Saturn, Mars) have more to do with “lusts” (normal or otherwise) than Venus does. Interestingly, in addition to art, cosmetics, music and the like, Venusian placements are considered to relate to other issues such as money management, agriculture and banking. Venus rules the signs Taurus and Libra, is in its detriment in Aries and Scorpio, is exalted in Pisces, and is in its fall in Virgo.

In Vedic Astrology (Jyotish)

The quality of Rajas is connected to desire, so even we Westerners can readily understand its association with Venus. The element assigned to Venus is Water. In terms of “properties” and “indicators,” the ones assigned to Venus in Vedic astrology appear to my untutored eye to be very similar to the ones one would find in any of the ancient Western texts. Sensitivity, issues relating to a man's spouse, etc., are all associated with the planet. It is the “Lesser Benefic“ here as well - with the caution that any planet can manifest adversely depending on its placement in a chart, including Venus and Jupiter. Its rulerships, exaltations and detriments are fundamentally similar to the Western ones.

In Myth and Legend

Venus, Aphrodite, Ishtar. Name one of the ancient polytheistic religions, and they all seem to have a deity (usually female) that is associated with the appearance of the Morning and/or Evening Star (Venus). Mayan and Aztec lore associates several of their deities with the planet Venus - and their descriptive lore for the planet is not nearly as placid as it is in European-origin astrology. Bruce Scofield and others have delved deeply into that lore, and Bruce's findings give one much to think about. As for Venus and Aphrodite, they seem both to have been exemplars for a certain kind of romantic and physical love, as opposed to the maternal or wifely qualities of Juno, for example, or the warrior-like qualities of Athena of Diana. There is a lot of concord between the symbols found in Graeco-Roman mythology for these two and the astrological symbolism assigned to the planet Venus.

In the Arts

Since almost all popular ballads have something to do with romance, and Venus is considered to have a strong connection with that subject, the number of songs, plays, ballads, and musical pieces with “Venus” in their title or in their lyrics is probably uncountable. Since Roman times, images of Venus have proliferated, and they even continued to be made in medieval times. To this day, artists are inspired by the myths and legends of Venus and create works directly or indirectly linked with that name. Likewise in novels, plays, stories and poems (but particularly in poetry), wherever one looks, one can find all kinds of references to Venus throughout the history of Western literature. Interestingly, only when we turn to Science Fiction do references to the planet become scarcer - though they are certainly present!

Venus Astronomical Data

 

Distance from Sun67,230,000 miles (108,200,000 km, 0.723 AU)
Diameter at Equator7,520 miles (12,103.6 km) = .96 of Earth's diameter
Mass (Earth = 1)0.814 (or 4.869e24 kg)
Mean Density (water = 1) 5.25 (5250 kg/m^3)
Angle/inclination of Orbit3.394
Tropical Orbit (days)224.7 days)
Length of day (hours)243.0 days (retrograde)
Obliquity to Orbit (“tilt”)25.19 (compare this with earth’s 23.45 degrees)
Number of Rings0
Number of Moons0
Mean Surface Temperature 726K (highest is 740K/900F/482C)
Atmospheric Components96% carbon dioxide; 3% nitrogen; 0.003% water
Surface MaterialsBasaltic rock and altered materials (metamorphic).

 

 

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