Everything you need to know about the history of Earth’s mysterious neighbour.
From being viewed as two distinct stars, to a planet inhabited by “Venusians”, to being considered the second planet Earth, human perception of Venus has evolved through the ages.
Named after the Roman goddess of love, likely due to its bright appearance, Venus has sat quietly in the sky while we make our own assumptions as to what it might contain and represent. Only through recent scientific developments have we been able to bring some clarity to what our neighbouring planet is and isn’t.
Ancient civilisations used to believe that Venus was two distinct stars
Due to its proximity to the sun, the illusion created by sunlight fooled the ancient Greeks and Egyptians into believing that Venus was actually two separate stars, visible at sunrise and sunset. These were named the morning and evening star respectively, and became the subject of worship for generations. The disproportionately brighter light given from Venus even earnt itself a mention in the Bible, being compared to Jesus himself. It took a few hundred years before the Greeks realised that Venus was a single object moving within Earth’s orbit, in what must have been a sobering moment for all involved.
UFO spotters believe that aliens belonged to Venus
In ‘ufology’, the study of extraterrestrial life, it became very convenient to ascribe aliens to Earth’s closest neighbour. Going as far back as the 1950s, alien sightings were claimed to be of “Venusians” who had arrived on planet earth to make contact with humans. While most of the photo and video evidence was investigated and debunked, this hasn’t stopped the fanatical imagination with Venusian life, and conspiracies can still be found in blogs and videos via a quick internet search.
The idea of Venusians has also made its way into science fiction movies and comics, showing that they are not only a hit with theorists, but with the entertainment industry too.
Some people believe that Venus may be Hell itself
The mystery of the unknown gives license for the imaginative mind to wonder. None more so than Dr Michael Santini, a former aerospace engineer who wrote a book detailing how Venus is the physical embodiment of hell itself. While the ancient Greeks had beliefs concerning the physical existence of religious places, Dr Santini’s book demonstrates that similar opinions still exist in society today, despite advances in astronomy.
People believe that Venus used to be another planet Earth
These days, due to the wonders of 21st century science, we can be more sure of what Venus is, as well as what it could have been in the past.
It’s boiling hot. 900 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact. It also has 92 times the pressure of Earth, its atmosphere a veritable blanket of sulfuric acid which clouds its visibility. Thanks to this, the planet is difficult to examine and has therefore been able to maintain a degree of mystique.
Scientists believe that Venus used to boast a cooler climate, similar to that on Earth. This has led to speculation that Venus is presenting us with an insight into the fate of our own planet, as climate change takes hold. While conditions on our sister planet would certainly not be able to support life as we know it, there has been evidence that bacteria could be living in the clouds, where the atmosphere is cooler.
When will we know for sure?
As we can see, the beliefs and discoveries we make about Venus are ever changing. From scientific discoveries to new theories based on faith and opinion, the mystery behind Earth’s sister planet means it will always be a playground for the imagination.