Moon (left), Venus (right)
This November feels like the Venus month. That is because it is. Since November 6 I have been unconsciously catching a particularly bright Venus in the southwest at dusk.
After five days of this spectacle I decided to find out if there was anything special happening with Venus at this time. It turns out the terrestrial planet, very similar to Earth in its size, is currently shining at a magnitude of –4.46, which makes it, according to David Dickinson of Universe Today, 16 times brighter than the brightest star in the sky, namely Sirius which shines at –1.46 magnitude.
Last evening, I again saw crescent Moon and Venus together in a sight that could only be described as spellbinding. It was captivating enough for me to quickly paint it (See above) before the visual faded from my mind’s eye.
Venus has cast its spell on the human civilization for millennia and it occupies an extraordinary position in all global cultures. That has to do with its grand luminosity and easy visibility. Its presence is inescapable. The Venus spectacle has just begun as it is expected to reach its most spectacular on January 11, next year, according to Dickinson.
It is planet number 2 from the Sun after Mercury. It has gravity which is similar to ours but atmospheric pressure that is 92 times that on Earth. On its surface it feels like you are half a mile under water. It has a very weak magnetic field which means its atmosphere is stripped away by solar winds.
Venus was in the headlines last year when it completed its eight-year cycle of transiting across the Sun as visible from Earth. That happens every 243 years. The latest one occurred between June 8, 2004 and June 5-6, 2012. I had painted the transit as well. (See below).
I suggest all of you find time at dusk to see Venus if only to avert getting overrun by the oppressive mundaneness of life. While you do that, it would be useful to remember Venus is enveloped in clouds of sulfuric acid. So what is pretty from a distance is rather perilous up close. What is with the pretty and the perilous that they always go together? Those clouds make it impossible to see Venus in direct visible light from space.
It hardly needs stating that the epic spectacle that is our universe is entirely because of the extremely violent and destructive forces which are constantly rearranging physical contours of celestial bodies. The universe is nothing if not a vast and relentless display of cosmic pyromania.