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Interesting-looking planet. And it's just next-door to the earth, and about the same size. (In comparison, Mars is quite a bit smaller)
Unfortunately Venus turns out to not be a very pleasant climate currently (2004). A bit hot (hot enough to melt lead), toxic acidic atmosphere, high pressure (90 atmospheres), bit of a greenhouse effect problem. Terrible thunder and lightning storms all the time.
Although the temperature and pressure at the surface of the planet Venus are very hot and dense, there is an earth-like habitable zone between about 50km and 65km altitude.
Why are the conditions so bad on Venus? I have some insight into this now I have emigrated from the UK to Panama. Whereas in the UK it is quite cold most of the time, and it gets especially cold on a clear night because the ground radiates heat into space, in Panama things are different. It's tropically hot, and at night it stays hot. The temperature falls no more than a few degrees overnight and so the next day starts quite hot. The reason it stays so hot is because the atmosphere acts like a thick blanket and keeps the heat in. In Panama it's humidity and cloud cover, but Venus takes this to an extreme. The atmosphere is 90 times the pressure on Earth, and it's mostly CO2. So, a severe greenhouse-effect. It stays hot all night, even though on Venus the night lasts 58½ earth-days.
A good first move towards Venusian colonisation would be to terraform the planet. Biological alteration of the climate is the current favoured method. Extremophile organisms from Earth (for example blue-green algae) if introduced, could float about in the upper atmosphere and absorb sunlight and turn the CO2 into oxygen. Various nanotech devices could also be used, when the technology advances. Though terraforming of the planet Venus is quite an expensive venture capital project, the prize is very great, as the resulting planet would be like a whole Earth's worth of resources!
More about Terraforming Venus:
A few Venusian links:
Pictures of Venus - Russian images brilliantly restored by Don Mitchell
http://private.addcom.de/jselk/Venus.htm - cybersquatted, apparently
www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/71657/title/Science_Past__Science_Past_from_the_issue_of_April_8,_1961__ - terraforming
It would be good to find a rotating globe of a Venus as if it was a terraformed earthlike planet (animated gif?). Adding oceans (which as of this date the planet does not have) would make the globe of Venus have continents and coastlines, but these would be entirely different to those of the planet Earth. It would also rotate the other way around, and considerably slower. I dare say it's likely that some of the gadget shops would have a Venus globe on their list of interesting items on sale, but I have not checked them all!
Current evidence suggests Venus had oceans a long time ago, but they were evaporated and then swept away by the solar wind. Venus doesn't have much magnetosphere, so it's more vulnerable to this effect.
Also see Xyroth's photos of the transit of Venus 2004. www.xyroth.net/transfot.htm . As the planet Venus is about the same size as the Earth, it's interesting to see how big the sun is in comparison, as Venus appears the size of a pea on a dinner plate against the background of the sun.
There was another transit of Venus on 2012/06/05 , but some observation places were clouded-over. The next one is in 2117.
Transits of Venus have historically been subject to the Black Drop Effect. Even in 2012, various odd explanations were still being stated about the Black Drop Effect as fact at various scientific websites. However, the explanations were "explain it away" notions which often disagreed with each-other, and most of them were wrong. Note: The Black Drop Effect can be observed inbetween small gaps inbetween small objects.
Terrain Data!: The surface of the planet Venus has been mapped by radar, and from this it's possible to construct three-dimensional scenes and flight simulation. Some clues into this can be found at:
The early Russian images of Venus have been digitally remastered, revealing extra detail. More about this:
Especially of interest are the Venus globe simulation images at Relief Globe.com (was http://www.reliefglobe.com/) , for example www.reliefglobe.com/venus_150x_6deg.html. We are reliably informed that the images are not copyrighted, which is impressively libertarian. Well Done!
Because of this generous policy by Relief Globe, we have acquired and terraformed a globe of Venus for the front page of Zyra's website on Issue87. See the picture New Worlds of Opportunity
The page www.zyra.org.uk/venus.htm is one of thousands of pages at Zyra's website about a wide variety of subjects. Also see space, orbits explained, science, etc.