The Planet
Venus


Until the 1960s, Venus was often considered a "twin sister" to the Earth because Venus is the nearest planet to us, and because superficially the two planets seem to share many characteristics (image source).

Earlier Views of Venus

In earlier times, there was considerable speculation concerning the possibility of life on Venus, sometimes with rather elaborate characteristics. In 1686 a French "man of letters", Bernard de Fontenelle, wrote that
I can tell from here . . . what the inhabitants of Venus are like; they resemble the Moors of Granada; a small black people, burned by the sun, full of wit and fire, always in love, writing verse, fond of music, arranging festivals, dances, and tournaments every day. (Quoted in National Geographic, June, 1975)
Now apart from the fact that this description is rather unremarkable because it sounds like everyday student life around a great University like ours, it turns out that monsieur de Fontenelle was quite incorrect about Venus and its conjectured inhabitants.

Modern views of Venus

In the last 30 years we have learned a great deal about our "sister" planet, and we now know that almost nothing on Venus is like that on the Earth. Much of the previous misconception can be traced to the difficulty of observing Venus because it is always covered with a thick cloud layer. In the past 3 decades astronomers have learned how to peer through that cloud layer and unlock many of the secrets of this nearby but previously not well known planet.


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