Because Venus is surrounded by highly reflecting clouds, it seems brilliant (it has a high albedo). The clouds in Venus's atmosphere contain sulfuric acid droplets as well as acidic crystals floating in a gas mixture. These particles reflect light from the sun back to space, causing it to appear bright even at visible wavelengths. Earth's moon also has a high albedo because it is completely covered by dark lunar soil.
Albedo means "the proportion of a surface that is reflected back toward space," and it is used to describe the amount of light that is reflected by a body. A body with a high albedo will reflect a large fraction of the sunlight that falls on it, while one with a low albedo will only reflect a small fraction of the sunlight that hits it. Objects in outer space tend to be very dark because they are usually made of ice or rock, materials which don't reflect much light.
Venus has a very high albedo, probably more than 0.7. This means that it reflects more than 70 percent of the sunlight that strikes it. Earth's moon has a lower but still high albedo—about 0.3. Water does not reflect much light, so rivers, lakes, and oceans tend to be dark surfaces
The flat surfaces of these spheres and crystals allow light to bounce readily off them. The sunlight reflecting off these clouds contributes much to Venus's brightness.
Venus has been the object of many attempts at human exploration. The first modern attempt was made by the Russian Venera program, which launched five missions between 1976 and 1990 that completely mapped the surface with radar. However, all five probes were lost when their parachutes failed to open.
In 2004, the European Space Agency sent the Venus Express mission into orbit around the planet. Over the course of two years, the probe completed the first ever global survey of the atmosphere from space. It found that 95 percent of the aerosols (small particles) present on Earth are believed to come from sources within Earth's own environment. On Venus, however, most of the aerosols appear to be external, coming from beyond our solar system.
Additionally, the probe discovered large regions where there is no cloud coverage, allowing the Earth to be seen in its full glory.
These images were taken by the Visible Imaging Radiometer (VIR), which is equipped with two wide-angle cameras designed for Earth observation from space.
Venus has an albedo of 0.7, which means it reflects around 70% of the sunlight that strikes it. So that's why Venus is blazing so brilliantly right now, and it's a beautiful sight to see in the evening sky. It's also why Venus is the brightest object other than the Moon during this period when it is north of the Earth's shadow.
The Sun causes problems for us every day, but only sometimes does its impact become visible across the solar system. When this happens we call it a "sunstorm". A sunstorm on Venus would darken the planet and plunge it into chaos. All the great plains and craters we know today would be erased forever!
But these are not ordinary times, and so we get a glimpse of what life might be like on Venus every time we see it overstate by far the most brilliant light in the night sky.
The location of Venus in relation to the Earth and the Sun determines how well we can view it. It's also why Venus is the brightest planet except when it passes behind the Earth's shadow.
When viewed from a distance, Venus appears brighter than any other object in the night sky because it shines with its own light, not just reflected light like the other planets do. Even though it's very close to the Earth, only 140 million km (87 million miles) away, we can't see it with the naked eye because it doesn't come close enough for that to be possible. But we can see it with the help of telescopes, which will reveal details about the surface composition of Venus that no human being could have discovered otherwise.
As it orbits, Venus travels through time zones due to its tilted orbit, which causes it to rise later each day. When morning comes on Venus, it's already over half way across the Earth's diameter, and by afternoon it's far beyond our horizon.