With the naked eye Venus appears to be the brightest object in the sky (not including the sun and the Moon) and unlike Mercury, the only other planet with an orbit closer to the sun than ours on Earth, it is very easy to spot. Like Mercury, due to the fact that it is an inferior planet, it will often be found within close proximity to the Sun and often sets relatively shortly after the sun. However unlike Mercury it isn’t hidden as much by the Sun and can be seen in the sky much more often.
Venus is covered in a thick opaque cloud of sulfur dioxide, which does a great job of reflecting the sun’s light making Venus quite bright to view from Earth. It does however completely block out the view of Venus’s surface leaving the thick yellow atmosphere the only thing to be seen. The above picture is a computer generated image of what the surface looks like underneath its atmosphere, while below is the actual appearance of Venus from Space.
The best time to observe Venus is actually in the early morning or early evening before the sky gets too dark. This is because Venus is so bright that it can actually be more difficult to see its features with the large contrast between it at the night sky, and it is best to catch it with some twilight behind it. Venus can even be seen during the day, just be sure you are careful not to let your gaze wander too close to the sun, especially when using binoculars or a telescope. Because it is an interior plant, the best viewing conditions are when it is at maximum elongation, or when has the furthest apparent distance from the Sun as seen in the sky. Check out the Astronomical Calendar to determine when Venus is at maximum elongation.
Facts About Venus
Average Distance from the Sun: 0.723 AU (108,000,000 km)
Orbital Period: 224 days
Rotational Period: 243 days (Solar days are 117 days due to orbital motion around the Sun)
Mass: 4.87×1024 kg (0.813 Earth masses)
Diameter (equatorial): 12,104 km (0.949 times the earth)
Mean Surface Temperature: 480°C / 900°C