Venus was so named by the ancient Romans who looked to the sky and saw the perfection of the brightest light in the night sky, aside from the moon, and likened it to their perfect representation of womanhood. In other words, Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. That brightness of Venus is related not so much to its close proximity to the Earth as it is to the fact that it is covered with a dense layer of clouds that act to reflect the sun’s rays. Just how bright can Venus get? On some occasions it can even be detected by the naked eye when the sun is out doing its dirty, sinful business. As for proximity, Venus is actually closer to the sun than it is to Earth, which also accounts for its sometimes shocking brightness. When Venus is in the perfect position for viewing it actually has the power to take your breath away; you can’t miss it. Even so, the best time to get a gander at Venus is in the hours just before sunset or just after sunrise.
One of the weirdest facts about Venus is that a single day on the planet actually lasts longer than a year. It takes he the equivalent of 243 days as we know them here on Earth for Venus to rotate on its axis, whereas it only takes 225 Earth days for the planet to revolve all the way around the sun. Another odd little fact about Venus is that the rotation takes place in the opposite direction of Earth. That means that if you shoot a western movie on Venus and you want to end with your heroes riding horses into the sunset, they will be traveling in an easterly direction. Of course, you could not actually shoot a western on Venus because the average temperature is over 400 degrees and that is Celsius, not Fahrenheit. So while a shooting a western per se is out, you could probably make a fairly decent spaghetti western. (Seriously, you ever notice how much those guys sweat in Sergio Leone films?)
Although you might well assume that the reason Venus is so hot is simply because it’s closer to the sun, you would not be entirely right. Mercury is closer to the sun, yet not nearly as hot. No, the reason that Venus is so hot has to do with something is currently taking place here on Earth: the greenhouse effect. It is important for astronomers and scientists to be keep watching Venus closely these days because because in a few millennia that’s what Earth is likely going to resemble unless something is done about the effect of greenhouses gases on our own fragile atmosphere.
One last little tidbit about Venus that you might find amusing if not practically useful. In the film Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, the boys wind up on planet populated entirely by Miss Universe contestants. Guess which planet it is that Bud and Lou land on? Hint: ignore the title of the movie.