The Suitcase Lady


April 24, 2012, 10:43 pm

Venus has been putting on a spectacular show lately. Glance up and planet number two stands out in the night sky like the Kohinoor Diamond.

Venus’ exceptional brilliance recently caused a pilot to think he was headed for a crash with an oncoming plane. He abruptly dropped altitude tossing his passengers around the cabin like popcorn. Before judging him too harshly, consider these words by the award winning science journalist, Dava Sobel, in her 2005 book, The Planets…..”the planet’s dazzle mimics the landing beam of an oncoming airplane, even triggers police reports of unidentified flying objects.”

The brilliance that tricked the pilot is caused by sunlight that bounces off Venus’ dense and toxic cloud cover. Eighty percent is bounced off compared to 8 percent off our dusty moon.

The clouds that cause the radiance also turn the planet into a seared wasteland with rocks resembling the embers of a fire. Day and night temperatures hover above 800 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than Mercury, the first planet from the sun. Soaring in layers fifteen miles high, the clouds block the sun during the day and the stars and planets at night. It’s a perpetual gloaming and the greenhouse effect on steroids. If  the above isn’t dismal enough, the clouds also produce constant sulphuric acid rain which evaporates before it strikes the ground.

Venus’ atmosphere is also diabolical. Consisting of 97 percent carbon dioxide, the Venus “air” weighs on the terrain with 90 times the pressure of earth’s atmosphere. Between 1970 and 1984 the Russians landed ten spacecraft on Venus. After an hour of picture taking and measuring, each melted in the heat or was crushed by the pressure which is comparable to 3,000 feet below sea level.

Venus goes her own way, the only planet to rotate to to the west as she travels eastward around the sun with the other planets. The sun rises in the west. And she is a lazy spinner: one Venus day equals 243 Earth days. The Venus year is shorter than its day, 224.7 Earth days.

Every geographic feature on Venus except one is named after a woman either real or mythological. I sincerely hope this is not an editorial statement on my gender….beautiful, but deadly.

3 Comments for this entry