[In Our Time] Venus


27/12/2018 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=60937851
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/5/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p06w6nyb.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the planet Venus which is both the morning star and the evening star, rotates backwards at walking speed and has a day which is longer than its year. It has long been called Earth’s twin, yet the differences are more striking than the similarities. Once imagined covered with steaming jungles and oceans, we now know the surface of Venus is 450 degrees celsius, and the pressure there is 90 times greater than on Earth, enough to crush an astronaut. The more we learn of it, though, the more we learn of our own planet, such as whether Earth could become more like Venus in some ways, over time.


Carolin Crawford
Public Astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge

Colin Wilson
Senior Research Fellow in Planetary Science at the University of Oxford


Andrew Coates
Professor of Physics at Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London

Produced by: Simon Tillotson and Julia Johnson

Listen Date: 2019-02-26

• New learning: that Venus is associated with love and fertility because the cycle between its appearance and disappearance (reappearance?) is nine months
• Also learned: it took a long time before people realised that the morning star and the evening star are the same planet
• wNot a new learning but good to be reminded that a) the transit of Venus exists b) you get two within eight years of each other but then have to wait ages c) that the transit of Venus was one of the mission objectives of Captain Cook’s voyage to the Souther Hemisphere
• The Anglo-French rivalry over who would do all the observations of the transit of Venus first reminded me of Tintin – The Shooting Star
• Also knew before but had forgotten: that Earth’s magnetic field protects us from solar wind. What I hadn’t known about or made the connection – that because Mars doesn’t have a strong enough magnetic field, its atmosphere got stripped away by solar wind.
• Venus also doesn’t have a magnetic field; but somehow maintains its atmosphere.
• Tangentially learned about new high temperature electronics that could withstand the temperatures of Venus on future missions


  1. […] The failure of the Transit of Venus observations in 1761 made people desperate to get it right in 1769; but the 1769 one would only be observable in uncharted areas of the Pacific. The Royal Society hired James Cook and his Endeavour to observe it from any place he could find. This reminded me of all the things I had heard in the In Our Time episode about Venus. […]


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