Is it possible to see detail on Venus with my telescope?

Being our next-door neighbour, can we grab stunning views of the surface of Venus?

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Venus is wrapped in thick clouds of carbon dioxide, meaning that we can't see down to its rocky surface

Venus is wrapped in thick clouds of carbon dioxide, meaning that we can’t see down to its rocky surface. Image Credit: ESA

Asked by Roxanne Harris

Venus is wrapped in thick clouds of carbon dioxide that make it impossible to see down to its rocky surface. Even spacecraft in orbit around Venus have to resort to radar to penetrate the clouds and detect the surface terrain, and NASA’s Magellan space probe did this successfully in the 1990s. Amateur astronomers can though detect some details in Venus’ upper atmosphere, particularly when using ultraviolet filters. These details include swirling patterns of cloud visible as darker and light patches.

On the odd occasion it may also be possible to witness a mysterious phenomenon of unknown origins called Ashen Light, which appears on Venus’ dark side when the phase of the planet is a crescent. It is also possible to follow all the phases of Venus, just like you can with the Moon.

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