Venus and Jupiter Imagined: From Galileo to Science Fiction

August 26, 2016 - Finding Carter

Venus and Jupiter will seem so tighten together in a sky this Saturday (Aug. 27) that, from some locations, a dual planets will seem to roughly touch. But as tighten as they competence appear, these dual planets have unequivocally graphic images in a public’s notice — and that story stretches behind centuries and has developed severely over time.

Venus and Jupiter were a initial dual planets to be evenly celebrated with telescopes. Through his observations in a early 1600s, Galileo Galilei remade a approach amiability saw Venus and Jupiter, and with them, a universe. 

“With Galileo, those lights remade into worlds,” Edwin. C. Krupp, executive of a Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, told Previously, no one was means to see that a planets weren’t customarily points of light, yet disks. [Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2016: When How to See It]

Venus and Jupiter will get so tighten together in a dusk sky on Saturday, Aug. 27, that they will seem to roughly touch.
Credit: Sky Telescope blueprint


Krupp, who has turn an consultant on ancient astronomy in his 40 years during Griffith, remarkable that Galileo, with his early telescope, detected that Venus had phases, customarily as a moon does, proof once and for all that it was round and located closer to a object than Earth was. This was a vital discovery, since it showed that Venus had to be relocating around a sun, and between a object and Earth. 

Up to that point, many people suspicion a Earth was during a center of a solar system, with a object and planets orbiting Earth. Some of a planets seemed to pierce in one instruction some nights, and afterwards behind in a other instruction other nights — what is now called retrograde motion

At a time, this back suit was explained by epicycles: Each universe had a indicate that it would pitch around, describing a tiny circle, even as it concurrently circled a Earth. The system, invented by Ptolemy some-more than a millennium before, was unwieldy, yet it did a decent pursuit of presaging celestial motion. Galileo’s observations fit improved with a suspicion that Nicolaus Copernicus due in a 16th century: that a Earth and other planets go around a sun. 

Galileo also discovered that Jupiter had moons. He found four: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The names weren’t bound until prolonged after he died, yet we still call those 4 moons the Galilean satellites in his honor. 

Galileo’s work sparked “a pivotal mutation in tellurian perspective,” Krupp said. That mutation was customarily exceeded, in Krupp’s opinion, by a emergence of a supposed space age in a 1950s, when humans could not customarily investigate a cosmos, yet transport there.  

Finding Jupiter’s moons put additional cracks in a Earth-centric complement of astronomy since astronomers had to acknowledge that a Earth was not a core of all motion, with all celestial bodies revolving customarily around it. Galileo also showed that Earth was no longer a customarily universe that had a moon. If a other planets could have one, Earth was not singular in this regard. 

But saying a planets, even by a telescope, wasn’t adequate to solve a mysteries of what kinds of worlds these were. And that’s where a tellurian imagination filled in a blanks. 

Science-fiction writers once likely that Venus competence demeanour like Earth underneath a thick covering of clouds; in reality, a universe is baked dry by a exile hothouse effect.
Credit: NASA/JPL


Venus: from jungle to hellscape

Krupp remarkable that before a emergence of a space age, astronomers tended to investigate stars; in a 1950s, a suspicion of a planetary scientist was in a infancy. So a unequivocally suspicion of requesting models schooled from geology on Earth to Venus was unusual.  

“Part of it had to do with a comparatively tiny race of astronomers intent in those problems,” he said. “Planetary astronomers were comparatively few.” 

One reduction was technical:the telescopes accessible in a initial half of a 20th century could customarily collect adult so many fact from a ground. Covered in clouds, Venus looked like a featureless, white round when noticed in visual light from Earth. (The cinema from space probes that uncover cloud structure are customarily shot in ultraviolet light.) 

A perspective of Venus with manifest light reveals a smooth, white sphere. The light can't dig a planet's thick cloud layer.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


Without a ability to representation Venus’ atmosphere or observe a universe some-more closely, a best anyone could do was take spectrographs (which can exhibit a chemical combination of clouds by a light they reflect) and heat measurements of Venus. But Krupp pronounced a heat during a cloud tops of Venus didn’t exhibit anything about a heat during a surface. Meanwhile, a combination of a planet’s atmosphere was famous to be mostly CO dioxide, yet that was about all a information that was accessible until a early 1960s.

Breakthroughs came in a 1960s and 1970s when radar imaging suggested that Venus had a severe aspect that was solid, and that a universe rotated unequivocally slowly. 

Imaginations ran wild. Clouds, of course, had to be done of water, so many of a early ideas about Venus revolved around it being a soppy planet. 

“I credit Edgar Rice Burroughs,” Krupp said, referring to a famed author who combined Tarzan and a Martian soldier John Carter. Burroughs posited that Venus was a jungle planet, yet other writers — among them, C.S. Lewis, best famous as a author of a “Chronicles of Narnia” array — ran with a sea universe idea. Some authors — notably, science-fiction fable Ray Bradbury — suspicion Venus competence be a rainforest. 

A period of orbiters and landers, mostly a Soviet Union’s Venera probes and the U.S.’ Mariner missions, put to rest any thought of Venus as a universe that was radically matching Earth, with a few tweaks. Surface windy pressures on Venus are 90 times those on Earth, and it’s prohibited adequate to warp lead and zinc, they found. These missions also suggested that a clouds were mostly done of sulfuric acid. 

The discoveries showed that Venus was some-more visitor than anyone had thought, and incited a renouned imagination elsewhere. 

“I think, pre-Venera, there was a lot of conjecture about a conditions on a surface,” Paul M. Sutter, an astrophysicist during The Ohio State University (and a frequent contributor to’s Expert Voices section), pronounced in an email. “If anything, Venera incited people off to a judgment of colonizing or exploring Venus. Perhaps that’s because there’s so many concentration on Mars now.” 

Jupiter gets a close-up

Jupiter, by contrast, never got utterly a science-fictional diagnosis Venus did. Krupp remarkable that Jupiter’s bands became manifest by telescopes in a 17th century. It was flattering transparent they were atmospheric, not tellurian features. Few writers posited adventures on a Jovian surface, he noted, nonetheless Jupiter played a rather poignant purpose in a 1968 film2001: A Space Odyssey” and a concomitant book by Arthur C. Clarke. 

A sketch of Jupiter (with stripes) by Giovanni Cassini around 1667.
Credit: NASA


“I’d be hard-pressed to consider of any [film] that had a impact that [“2001: A Space Odyssey,”] did, that handled Jupiter as a genuine earthy place,” Krupp said. 

The Pioneer and Voyager probes, and after a Galileo missions, journeyed to this hulk planet, and altered tellurian perspectives of Jupiter. More recently, a universe has turn a sideshow to a moons. 

“The genuine revelatory picture was when the Voyager pictures had customarily appeared,” Krupp said. “I was during this meeting, and they had been put out on a table. We had these prints customarily sitting there — Europa and Io in front of Jupiter. And in a three-dimensionality of a scene, they unexpected incited into worlds.” 

Prior to Voyager, nobody suspicion Jupiter’s moons would be unequivocally dynamic, Krupp said. 

“People thought, customarily some-more lumps of rock, like [Earth’s] moon, essentially a same kind of thing,” he said. “[Voyager] unequivocally altered once and perpetually a suspicion of what worlds in a solar complement [are] unequivocally about.” 

Jupiter’s moon Io was even a illusory site of a Hollywood film: a 1981 film “Outland,” starring Sean Connery, is a science-fiction chronicle of a 1952 western “High Noon” and takes place on a Jovian satellite. 

The 4 Galilean moons, in sequence of augmenting stretch from Jupiter: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Real places

Beyond these dual planets’ illusory representations, though, scholarship has wrought changes in a approach people see and correlate with Venus and Jupiter, Sutter said. 

“For me, it was a flourishing fulfilment that these planets are ‘alive,'” he said. “They’re not customarily immobile pictures; [they] change over tellurian timescales. For example, [Jupiter’s] Great Red Spot isn’t as good as it was 100 years ago. The Venusian atmosphere has formidable cycles that we’re hardly commencement to understand.” 

The biggest change is creation planets into places in a open consciousness, Krupp said. Before Galileo, a planets were visionary objects, he said; now, humans can suppose station on one. 

“We see that they [have] landscapes; we suppose [them] in a distant some-more personal approach than was probable before,” he said. 

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