What Does Venus Look Like Through A Telescope?

Can you see Venus through a telescope? What does Venus look like? It’s not that hard to spot Venus in our night sky. If you’ve got a telescope handy, you might want to get a closer view of Venus. Here are some tips on how to find this bright planetary body with your telescope and what you can expect to see.

What is Venus and where can it be found in the sky?

Venus is the second brightest object in our night sky, the first being the Moon (I list apparent brightness of sky objects under magnitudes). It’s next planetary rival in brightness is Jupiter, which is only half as radiant, and Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is 8% of Venus’ luminosity.

The planet is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It’s also known as the “morning star” or “evening star.” The Mayan civilisation revered Venus. It was a symbol of creation and fertility and they went so far as sacrificing captives in its honor. It’s important to know that Venus is a planet, not a star, although referred to as the “morning or evening star.” (This can be confusing) ​

Venus is only visible in the sky for an hour or so before sunrise or after sunset when it sits above the horizon. It’s one of those objects I covered in what stars and planets you can see during the day (including just before sunrise and just after sunset). The best time to view Venus through your telescope is during dusk or dawn when you can see its crescent shape.

How can you find Venus through a telescope?

  • Look above the western horizon after sunset. On a clear evening for five to six months of the year, Venus is seen as a bright star and can’t be missed”
  • Set up your telescope, and use a low power eyepiece to get a wide view of the horizon before looking for Venus.
  • Then, once you find it in your telescope lens, adjust the focus and magnification until it looks clear and sharp as possible.

For city viewing, you may have issues, as I cover in my tips on viewing stars and planets in the city, because Venus sits at a low altitude (above the horizon) when best seen. Also, if you’re in a low spot surrounded by trees, you will need to find a elevated spot to see Venus.

What magnification do you need to see Venus?

You don’t need huge magnification to see Venus through a telescope. For planetary inspection, a telescope magnifying 150x is considered typically good all round.

What does Venus look like through a telescope?

Venus can look ball-shaped (full) to a thin crescent depending on its phase. Just like the Moon, Venus has phases. Venus has phases because it orbits the Sun. What phase you see of Venus depends on what portion of its surface is illuminated by the Sun.

Venus offers its best views through a telescope when it is closest to Earth in its orbit around the Sun. This is once every 18 months when you’ll chance to see a sickle-shaped Venus crescent.

Venus orbits closer to Earth than any other planet but, because of its thick atmosphere which acts as a filter, you won’t see much when viewing this planet through a telescope or binoculars.

Venus’ atmosphere is 90x thicker than Earth’s and is almost totally of carbon dioxide, though tainted with sulfuric-acid. It is far beyond a hospitable place for life as we know it. This blanket masks the furnace-like surface of Venus. This ‘cloud blanket’ is what you’ll see of Venus through a telescope.

What are the features of Venus?

Unlike how you can see the bands of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn, Venus appears featureless through a telescope.

What you’ll see is the planet’s atmosphere! What does the atmosphere of Venus look like through a telescope? This atmosphere or ‘cloud blanket’ appears snow-white and has no features to speak of, unless you’re experienced enough with filters and have a medium to large telescope to see the contrasting patterns, spots, and other irregularities in the atmospheric cloud.

What does Venus look like under that cloud?

Nasa presents a good picture of what Venus looks like under that cloud blanket. It’s an extremely hot environment and looks like a wasteland compared to our Earth.

Surface of Venus
Surface of Venus. What Venus looks like beneath the thick cloud. Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech
  • The atmosphere of Venus has been studied extensively by scientists all over the world and they’ve found that there are few ways for water molecules or any other substances like oxygen to be present in the atmosphere.

How to find Venus

If you have trouble finding Venus, try checking out astronomy apps such as Sky Map which can provide more information where to find Venus on a certain date, time, and location. I wrote about these in my tips on using sky charts.


Information sources

NASA resource package: Venus |