As one of the classical planets, Venus has been a familiar sight to humanity ever since we first started looking at the stars. Like Mercury, Venus’s movements are bound to the Sun but the similarities end there. Venus moves more slowly, and wanders further. It also shines extremely brightly – only the Sun and the Moon are brighter than Venus. Venus is easily identified as the Evening or Morning star and often passes near to the Moon, putting on a breathtakingly beautiful display to anybody who happens to notice.With it’s dazzling beauty and gracefully sweeping paths across the sky, it makes sense that the Roman associated it with the goddess Venus.
Venus was a very colourful character, and her myths and legends were particularly spicy! When the youngest of the titans, Cronus, led a rebellion against his father (Uranus), he took out his frustrations by castrating Uranus with a sickle. When the blood from the wound splashed into the ocean, a great froth rose up which floated to shore. When the foam dissipated, it revealed a breath-takingly beautiful new goddess. The Greeks called her Aphrodite and the Romans adopted her as their own, under the name Venus. Incidentally, Some versions of the story have her rising out of a seashell instead, hence the famous “Birth of Venus” motif.
Venus had spectacular beauty and sex appeal and she loved to use them. When she was ushered up to Mount Olympus, chaos ensued as all the male gods began competing for her attentions and fighting for the privilege of marrying her. Jupiter dealt with the situation by decreeing that she would marry Vulcan (Hephaestus to the Greeks). Vulcan was the artificer of the gods, and a blacksmith. He was both lame and ugly, the exact opposite of what Venus wanted. Vulcan crafted a magical girdle for Venus of gold and fine jewels. This would make the wearer completely irresistible to the opposite sex. It was a spectacularly stupid move, for Venus’s charms and insatiable appetites were matched only by her unfaithfulness. She had affairs with whomever she pleased and while she preferred sleeping with gods, she wasn’t above seducing particularly attractive mortals.
Her list of lovers is impressive, especially considering that she bore most of them children, but first in her heart was mighty Mars. Whenever Vulcan was away, they would indulge their passions in Vulcan’s bed. Venus gave Mars two sons (Phobos and Deimos), and a daughter (Harmonia).
Sadly for the couple, the Sun god Helios saw everything and told Vulcan what was going on. The enraged smith forged a magical golden net which he used to ensnare the lovers. He pinned them to the bed to be exposed for all the other god’s amusement.
However, despite the romance and passion of the mythology behind Venus, the planet has a totally different nature. Venus was once called the twin of Earth, because they have almost the same size, mass and internal structure. Yet more recent observations have revealed Venus to be a very different place. Venus is closer to the Sun that Earth, orbiting at about 100 million kilometres, and it rotates backwards. On Venus, the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East. But somebody standing on Venus would never see this, because the atmosphere is more than ninety times denser than Earth’s and composed mostly of carbon dioxide. Modern understanding of Carbon Dioxide’s properties, as a greenhouse gas, come from observations of Venus. The greenhouse effect has raised the temperature on the surface of Venus to over 460°C – that’s hot enough to melt lead. Also, it is has permanent 100% cloud cover and rains sulphuric acid…
So Venus is probably the closest place to Hell in the Solar System. Only two landers have ever been sent to Venus and both failed within minutes after landing, suffering from a combination of crushing pressure and baking temperatures. It is safe to say that Venus will probably never be colonised. So while Venus the god may have been a hot-blooded woman, she had nothing on the planet!