When you look out at the night sky, the first thing you’ll probably see is the moon, followed by the hundreds of stars twinkling brightly in the darkness. However, even though the moon and stars may seem to be the brightest objects in the sky, there’s something even brighter whose glow is only visible when the sun goes down – Venus. Not only is Venus the brightest planet in our solar system, but the only objects brighter than it are the Sun and Moon.
Venus is often called the morning star and evening star because of its high albedo, or brightness. The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is actually a lot dimmer than Venus. The planet’s size and shape are very similar to that of Earth’s, because of which it is sometimes called Earth’s twin.
The albedo of Venus is actually higher than the moon’s, as the term albedo refers to a comparison betweeb how much light strikes an object and how much of the light is reflected by it. The moon’s albedo is around .1, which is pretty low and means that it reflects about 10% of the lights that it receives. The albedo of Venus is .7, so it reflects a whopping 70% of the light it receives. The only reason that the moon looks brighter is because it’s a lot closer to us than Venus is.
The reason for Venus’s high albedo is its heavy blanket of clouds. The clouds in Venus’s atmosphere contain droplets of sulfuric acid and acidic crystals suspended in a mixture of gases. These droplets and crystals have smooth surfaces that light bounces off of easily. Because of this, Venus has the ability to reflect light very well.
Venus is named after the Roman goddess of love, and, although it’s been associated with beauty and feminity for a long time, its name is actually quite deceiving. Scientists had previously believed that its surface was lush and tropical, but they were proved wrong. The planet’s atmosphere does more than allow a high albedo – even though the clouds in Venus’s atmosphere make it really beautiful to look at, they also hide its barren, rocky surface, as well as trap enough heat to make Venus hotter than any other planet in the solar system. Its temperature often goes above 460°C, and its surface is lifeless, almost threatening, and very much like that of the Moon or Mercury. However, the Venus that is visible to us is definitely a sight to behold.