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The Beauty of Venus - By Nick Kollerstrom
Diameter: 12,140 km
Distance to Sun: 0.7 AU
Solar Orbit: 225 days
No of Moons: 0
Venus weaves a pattern of perfect harmony and beauty. Seen from the Earth it forms a lovely mandala every eight years, a pentagram pattern at its core. Let's start off with the synodic cycle of Venus. That is 18-19 months, and this is how long it takes between Venus becoming the shining Evening Star. It's the cycle that we experience, of its appearances and disappearances, whereby it alternates between being the Evening Star that sets in the West and the morning Star that rises in the East. Hesperus and Lucifer were the old names for these two aspects of Venus.
The pattern of Figure 1 shows five of these synodic periods of Venus. They weave together the pattern of the rose. Earth is in the centre, and as it comes nearest to us it makes its loops in the sky and temporarily goes backwards. That is called its retrograde motion. It moves backwards against the zodiac for about forty days. It only goes retrograde for 7% of its time, which is less than that for any other planet. So, not many people are born with Venus retrograde. But, we don't see it going retrograde in the sky. We can't see it, because that is when it is close to the Sun. As the Evening Star is dying into the sunset, just before it fades from view, it starts to go retrograde.
Let's quote John Martineau, who has a knack of putting these things simply:
'What is so beautiful is that every time Venus is
closest to us, when she is between us and the sun,
she is precisely two-fifths of the way round the
heavens from the last place she came close.'
In each such conjunction Sun-Venus-Earth i.e. when she is closest to Earth, Venus moves round two-fifths, then after five of them a pentagram is woven in the sky. This pattern in woven in an eight-year period, within a couple of days. Earth and Venus have quite closely circular orbits, that of Venus being the least elliptical in the solar system, and this makes their patterns very symmetrical. If we divide Venus' synodic period by that of Earth's year it gives φ the golden ratio (or the 'Divine proportion', 1.681), to within half a percent - as likewise does the Earth-year period divided by that of the Venus-year, to within about one percent.
John Martineau diagram, used with kind permission
An 8-year pattern links Earth, Sun and Venus. Joining heliocentric positions of Earth and Venus at regular intervals with straight lines also (Figure 2) gives a similar image (Quite how this works, does tend to elude me). These different frames of reference thus give the same pattern, of Venus' five synodic cycles per eight Earth-years; from which it follows, that thirteen Venus-years elapse per eight Earth-years. Take a while to mull over these things.
On June 7th, 2004, a transit of Venus happened, at 18° Gemini in the zodiac (1). Four years later Venus will again conjunct the sun on June 8th at 18° Gemini. Every four years, Sun-Venus conjunctions recur in time and space. This is the beautiful synchrony that Venus gives us. Thereby she weaves a pentagram in the sky every eight years; because the same applies to the superior conjunctions, we have a double pentagram woven around Earth, one pentagram of superior conjunctions being about six times larger than the other, and the two are in phase. Every four years, there are five solar conjunctions that move once round a pentagon, and they alternate as superior and inferior conjunctions. These two wonderful pentagrams revolve slowly against the stars, once per twelve centuries. The geometrical shape of the pentagram contains the 'golden ratio' more fully than any other.
The 'day' of Venus was discovered in the 1960s, using a radio telescope: it was able to peer through the dense mists of Venus's atmosphere. The planets all revolve in the same direction as they revolve around the Sun, anticlockwise - except only for Venus, which has a 'backward' rotation on its axis. It goes in the reverse direction to all others. Thus, Venus revolves backwards, and does so more slowly than that of any other planet. Its axial-rotation period is longer than its year.
It thereby generates the remarkable ratio whereby, in its eight-year period, it rotates twelve times on its axis. This rhythm causes the same face to orient earthwards at each solar conjunction, both at superior and inferior conjunctions.
During each synodic interval, Venus experiences just five days (5.001 to be exact). If we call a Venus Earth-day the interval between successive Earthrises, there are just four of them over this interval. This means that, per synodic cycle, Venus experiences five sunrises and four earthrises. By pondering these things, we begin to experience the profound music and harmony of Venus. To appreciate these matters, one should spend a while contemplating the Evening Star, hovering above sunset's turquoise glow.
Venus becomes most brilliant in the sky as Evening Star a month after its 'maximum elongation,' when it has risen highest in the sky and stands at its greatest distance from the Sun (37�). The 'Phosphorus' or Morning Star was more strident and associated with Nike the goddess of Victory, while the Evening Star had the gentle and amorous reputation. We should try to live with the Venus-cycle in its coming and goings as did the ancients. It remains visible for some 263 days as Evening Star before dying into the sunset, and this is the average period of human gestation. Six months after appearing as Evening Star, Venus reaches its greatest elongation, then a month later it grows to maximum brilliance, then two weeks later it stations (stops moving along the zodiac) then goes retrograde, and another two weeks later it dies into the sunset. Two weeks after that it reappears as the Morning Star, still going retrograde. There are potent dualities here between morning and evening, East or West, in front of the Sun or behind it, visible or invisible, direct or retrograde. The most fortunate and celebrated time of the cycle for the ancient Chaldeans was its heliacally-rising appearance, just before dawn. Plan for that enchanting cocktail-party you meant to have, when Venus will be most brilliant.
Figure 3: Two years of Venus� motion, with Earth at the centre, showing points at
which the same part of Venus is facing earthwards.
Far below the boiling, sulphuric acid clouds of Venus' dense atmosphere, there lies a tortured, hellish landscape.
Venus - Periods
Synodic - 583.9 days, Axial rotation - 243 days,
Sidereal (i.e. its year) - 224.7 days,
Day - 116.8 Earth days
(1) - Transits of Venus recur with clockwork regularity over a 243.006-year interval: four of them turn up every 243 years and two days. This period, in years, closely resembles Venus' axial rotation period of 243.018 days. Is this 'mere' chance, or is it more like what Kepler meant by his Harmonices Mundi, the world-harmony?
To appreciate the wonderful harmonies involved in Venus' motion - and it has more than any other planet - try some of these:
- or, click here for an animation showing how it weaves its pentagram