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Now I know this is a very weird and impossible question, there is clearly no civilization on Venus. But for the sake of the story I'm cooking up in my head, Venus remains habitable and develops life alongside Earth.

Now the details of how Venus doesn't turn into a hell world is moot and respectfully, not what I'm asking about. But I will give a simple description of the environment of this version of Venus as I think it does matter.

Essentially Venus in my story is a place old science fiction writers centuries ago imagined Venus to be a tropical, warm and misty "paradise planet". I like to imagine Venus shrouded in clouds although not to the extent in our world, but enough to obscure some surface features.

The intelligent species will be named Venusians for simplicity sake and be similar to humans in appearance and appendages etc. (Also for simplicity sake). Now my question is given these simple parameters, (and assuming Venusians develop technology alongside humans and are only 5-10 years behind) When would humanity be able to realize there is an intelligent species on Venus? Would it be before the Space Race? during? after? And when I say "when" I mean what time period/ year.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 0:19

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Assuming your version of Venus is still cloaked in dense cloud cover even though it has a breathable atmosphere?

With the invention of radio, in particular VHF radio. This is because Earth's atmosphere (and by extension Venus's) is transparent to VHF frequencies so radio emissions from Earth in that band range would be detectable from Venus if they were broadcast in the right general direction and of course vice vera. From memory Marconi started experimenting with VHF radio waves for long range communication use late in the 19th century. So given your Venusians are a decade or so behind us historically our radio operators would probably start detecting their signals sometime in the 1910's or 20's perhaps 30s at the latest.

(Of course their own early pioneers in radio at that time might also detect our broadcasts which in turn would probably spur on them a bit to try and perfect the technology so that might save a year or two of their schedule. If they chose not to respond? They might well end up being aware of us before we are aware of them!)

Note: I say the 'latest' because given the development of optical spectroscopy and interferometers and their use in astronomy started earlier than this it's possible astronomers might have realized Venus had an Earth like atmosphere and therefore life might exist on it's surface sooner than that. That wouldn't of course prove your Venusians existed but it would lead to intense scientific interest in the planet.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well tbh the only reason I want some cloud cover is that im afraid if Venus is earthlike it might reflect light much differently making it appear dimmer on earth. And maybe changing human history because of that (different name??) $\endgroup$
    – Dono
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 7:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Dono: About the name: we call her Venus because the Roman astronomers called her Venus. The Roman astronomers called her Venus because the Greek astronomers called her Aphrodite; they still do. (In the officious interpretatio Romana, the Romans identified the foreign Aphrodite with own Venus.) The Greek astronomers called her Aphrodite because the Babylonian astronomers called her Ishtar, and the Greek Aphrodite was sort-of similar to the barbarian Ishtar. The Babylonian astronomers called her Ishtar because the Sumerian astronomers had called her Inanna, which was a sort-of similar deity. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Are you certain that's why Greek astronomers called the planet "Aphrodite", and it's not just a coincidence? Greek astronomers didn't know that the morning star and evening star were the same body until the Hellenistic era, and they considered it a unique discovery when it was proven, suggesting they weren't generally aware of Venus in the record of older civilizations. $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinHilyard: Oh, they knew that the morning star and the evening star were the same celestial body long before the Hellenistic era, at least since the 5th century BCE, the time of Parmenides. They knew it as soon as they became interested in practical astronomy, because the Babylonians knew it, and the Greeks had learned their astronomy from the Babylonians. The Babylonians themselves knew that the morning and the evening star were the same at least since the 17th century BCE, when the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa was compiled. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Oh sorry, I wasn't clear in my last comment: The "it" I was referring to throughout that comment wasn't Greek astronomy in general, but the discovery that Phosphoros and Hesperos were the same object in specific. Obviously Greek astronomy was heavily inspired by Babylonian astronomy, I was just commenting there on that particular discovery and how the Ancient Greeks credited that discovery specifically to Pythagoras (or occasionally Parmenides). And that's the thing that I think could at least potentially have been an independent discovery, not astronomy in general. $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 21:23
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Martian canals were described in 1877. As we know now, the descriptions were wrong. Over the next century, this was gradually shown. Part of that was showing the lack of water in the spectrographic analysis of the atmosphere in the early 1900s, which lacked water vapor.

So one data point would be when the Venus civilization did build structures larger than a 'canal,' and the other when they did pollute their atmosphere enough to show up in spectroscopy. For the latter, one would have to consider that mankind would be judging habitable planets based on a sample of two -- we were polluting our atmosphere, they are polluting theirs, people might dispute that it is anthropogenic.

Gut feeling, there would be a dispute from the 1870s onwards, to be settled in the 1910s or 1920s.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer, thats much earlier than I thought it would happen now im curious as to how this will change the space race! $\endgroup$
    – Dono
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Dono given how massively the space race was boosted by a perceived-imminent major conflict between earthly powers I would assume a lasting and even bigger push (especially in the early phase, aka around the 1920s) $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Gut feeling confirmed. Schiaparelli reported on the 'canali' he saw on Mars in the opposition of 1877. 'Canali' can mean 'channels in Italian as well as artificial 'canals'. Percival Lowell's observations of Mars confirmed these, and speculated they were a titanic civil engineering project bringing water from the melting poles to the dry equator. H.G.Wells wrote 'The War of the Worlds' in 1895. In 1909 the New Mt Wilson 60-inch telescope was commissioned, and the canals could not be seen. No space race back then, but that was the year the work started on the US Panama Canal. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @RichardKirk, the gut feeling was based on Mars. I was wondering if there might be faster or slower resolutions of the Venus issue based on some other factor. Say nighttime lights from cities. But would 1890s-level gaslight be enough? $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 16:23
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I would imagine that some form of radio telescope would be needed to detect the faint radio signals from early Venusians radio. In all likelihood the first signals would be missed as the signals would be too weak and the early radio astronomers would have so much to look out. That could easily go on for a decade or two into the 1940's and 1950's before someone found it.

For example pulsars weren't discovered until 1967, I suspect they could have been detected earlier, but nobody thought to look or didn't have quite the right kit or funding. So chance would play a leading role. Just because something can be detected does not mean that something will be detected, although as time goes on the chance of discovery increases as the radio astronomy infrastructure builds.

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  • $\begingroup$ Atmospheric interference would definitely be a problem and early receivers were not very sensitive but the same time early transmissions were in Morse and power output was high as a means of overcoming those problems. Radio telescopes woudl definitively help but given a high enough volume of radio traffic (on Earth) for years at a time I would expect random snippets of signals would be detected. Enough for someone on Venus to decide they were artificial in origin. If they were detected however it would certainly spur on the development of radio telescopes - on Venus. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Well that's an interesting counter point - when would the Venusians discover there was intelligent life on Earth? $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 23:53
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They would know about us long before we knew about them due to our lesser cloud cover and architecture. If their tech was close to ours, we'd both know via radio waves long before either had spaceships.

I would think we'd know at least by the birth of civilisation although we'd attribute it to gods or something. We'd have pretty good proof shortly after decent telescopes and conclusive proof after radio. This is assuming the Venusians didn't attempt some sort of signaling themselves. All it would take is some meglomaniac mobilising a few million slaves and writing his name with stones across a desert or something.

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    $\begingroup$ This seems most like a comment than an answer. If you'd like to leave it as an answer, could you amplify please? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas ok, will do $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Kilisi! To me it looks like you're headed towards some kind of frame challenge. If so, that would be great, but I for one would love to see more detail! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is a valid point as it stands now. All other answers assume the Venusians are passive. As the flashing light on a life-raft demonstrates, active signalling makes it a whole lot easier to spot things! More details would be very cool in a retro-futurism way, of course. :) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham well its true that I haven’t given barely any details of this world and thats not because I don’t have any more details - I do, Im just afraid If I shared everything people wouldn’t really want to know or would just not like the concept. However this answer does ask an interesting question about if Venusians could notice Humans first. And how would they react to it? $\endgroup$
    – Dono
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 1:06
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I like to imagine Venus shrouded in clouds although not to the extent in our world, but enough to obscure some surface features.

If Venus had an atmosphere just like the Earth's, it would need to have considerably more cloud coverage than Earth to keep it inhabitable, so as to reflect more radiation into space than Earth does. That would obscure some surface features, but wouldn't obscure the whole surface.

Humanity would have two ways to detect a civilization on Venus: visible light and radio signals.

Visible light detection could happen as early as Galileo's time, but would more likely happen in the early 1900's. That's supposing their technology evolves at the same pace as ours. We would have the combination of very good telescopes on Earth and electric lights becoming a thing on Venus, illuminating cities by night. Failing that, we could possibly detect nukes being detonated on the night side around the 1940's.

As for radio, any signals either side sent that could reach the other would be picked up. That might happen around the 1940's, when "moonbouncing" became a thing. Moonbouncing is a technique which uses the Moon as mirror to send microwave or radio signals over vast distances. A good moonbouncing antenna and some FAFO (the scientific approach better known as F... er, Frolic Around and Find Out) and you could pick some conversation from the Venusians, or even an actual invitation to chat from them.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, you perfectly described what I imagined, a tropical world with most regions having a lot of rainfall and storms reflecting that light and heat back off into space. $\endgroup$
    – Dono
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 5:55
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Your tropical Venus is lush and green, since its flora evolved under the light of the same sun as ours. Like Earth's civilizations, your Venusian civilizations will need to clear a lot of land for farming and timber (if they want to keep just a decade behind our progress). Tragically, this means your untouched paradise will be scarred by swaths of deforestation.

As long as the cloud cover on your version of Venus is not thick enough to obscure the contrast between green and brown, Earthlings will be pretty suspicious as soon as their telescopes can resolve some of the brown patches.

Or, if you want to extrapolate, the Venusians leave their dense forests alone. Humanity's intellects, vast and cool and unsympathetic, regard this Venus with envious eyes, and slowly and surely draw their plans against the Venusians. They attack in bipods, but underestimate the resilience of the forest that protects its planet.

Previously, I had included an image illustrating how the forest would attack a bipod. Perhaps I should have included a warning for any readers who harbor imperial sympathies.

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  • $\begingroup$ Haha, I find it interesting that people here seem to assume I'm writing this to pit Humanity against “Venusians” in some ultimate show down like war of the worlds. But that was never the intention (atleast for me the OP anyone can do whatever they want with this concept) Venusians and Humans actually get along remarkably well and become sorta akin to interplanetary brothers? Like how dogs are considered “mans best friend” Venusians are mans real BEST friend and Vice Versa. $\endgroup$
    – Dono
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 5:59

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