[On June 5, 2012, Venus will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun, a rare astronomical phenomenon that will occur again in 105 years. This month, 13.7 Billion Years considers "Earth's twin," from the scientific study of the planet to its mythological underpinnings, with the series Second Rock from the Sun.]
Venus is luminous, sometimes so bright in the dark sky that even though it is an average of 26 million miles away—a distance roughly equal to the circumference of the Earth—it has the power to cast shadows here.
In fact, it is brighter than any star in the night sky, and the brightest celestial object in the night sky after the Moon.
It is this brightness that led ancient civilizations to believe that Venus was a star. And actually, it was thought to be two separate stars, as it shone in the both the night and morning skies.
So for a long time, Venus had two names: the Morning Star and the Evening Star.The Greeks, for example, called it Phosphorus and Hesperus, and believed that it was two stars until the sixth century BC.
The Romans also thought it to be two stars, calling the morning version of Venus "Lucifer" ("Light-Bringer") and the evening version "Vesper" ("evening star"). In many Christian religions, the word "vesper" came to mean "evening prayer."
Babylonian astronomers, however, understood that the two "stars" were actually a single object, referring to it in the 1581 BC Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa as the "bright queen of the sky."
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