Thesis: Planet Venus

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Planet Venus

Venus: A Planet of Knowledge and Mystery

With the exception of perhaps Mars, more lore and mythology exists about the planet Venus than any of its solar system brothers and sisters. According to Ev Cochrane's book the Many Faces of Venus: The Planet Venus in Ancient Myth and Religion, "cultures everywhere assigned [Venus] a prominent role in their mythological traditions and religious rituals." In fact, Cochrane suggests that the ancient astronomers' observations about Venus should be compared with today's scientists' knowledge in order to make some startling discoveries about the history of the planet. Regardless of whether or not Cochrane's theory is correct, it illustrates the importance of the planet Venus in both mythic and scientific disciplines. An understanding of what science knows and does not know about the planet Venus will lead to a further understanding of the planet's importance.

What We Know terrestrial planet of rock and metal, Venus is second in the solar system, spinning 108.2 million kilometers from the sun ("Venus"). An orbital period of 224.68 days, the Venus year is much shorter than the Earth year, and with an atmosphere composed of 96% carbon dioxide, a finding discovered by a Soviet Union probe dropped into the planet's atmosphere ("Venus," "Missions to Venus"). Scientists have gathered this information both through earth-based study and missions to Venus. In fact, the planet was one of the first to experience a mission from earth. In fact, during the space race, Venus was a common destination for both the United States and the Soviet Union. While many of the missions were failures, over 20 succeeded ("Missions to Venus"). Winning the space race in terms of Venus, NASA's Mariner 2 was the first mission to successfully complete a flyby of the planet. Discoveries from this first successful mission included extraordinarily high temperatures, around 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The probe's findings also included the lack of a magnetic field or water vapor around the planet ("Missions to Venus"). Other missions to the planet detected extreme atmospheric pressure, transmitted photos, analyzed the planet's heavy cloud cover, and drew a radar map of the planet ("Missions to Venus"). In addition to missions that launch satellites to Venus, observations from the Russian space station have similarly aided in scientists' knowledge of the planet. In fact, a clear view of the planet in 1983 allowed for an exemplary view of the dust cloud that, while visible from earth, was studied in much more detail from space (Robinson 20).

While robotic missions to Venus have certainly provided a great deal of data and information about the planet, scientists have also conducted earth-based studies based on the visibility of the planet. Although the ability to view Venus from a telescope changes based on the time of the year and the planet's position in the sky relative to earth's, the visions in March of 2008 suggested to both scientists an casual observers the closeness of Venus and Mercury, which came as close together as one degree and were never more than three degrees apart (Schaaf 59). In addition, earth-based studies have suggested the ability to view Venus from a variety of locations throughout the earth at a variety of times of years, suggesting the planet is rather difficult to view if not at the right place at the time because it remains close to the sun (Ratcliffe and Talcott). Earth-based studies have also allowed scientists and other observers to note the relationship between Venus and the other planets, including earth (Siegfried 404). Thus, both missions to Venus and earth-based studies have allowed scientists to learn a great deal about the planet.

What We Don't Know

Despite the missions to Venus and the earth-based… [END OF PREVIEW]

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