Remember when Venus was a planet of lush jungles and radiant oceans, and Mercury was a tidally locked world of extremes, its dayside treacherous with molten-metal pools and its nightside a frigid locker of exotic ices? And who knew what sorts of intelligent lifeforms existed to pose a communications challenge?
Such were the imagined worlds during the Golden Era of science fiction, the stories written in the 40s and 50s and early 60s, the stories I imprinted on as an avid young reader. Those visions may have been shattered by the real worlds discovered by space probes of the late Twentieth Century. But my mind was full of those images over the last couple of evenings as I peered through my binoculars at Venus and Mercury—seemingly close enough to reach out and tango—in the western twilight sky.
Oh, to have those Golden-era worlds back. The possibilities!
I tried to take a picture with my phone camera, but it was hopeless. Here are two NASA images, Mercury on the left and Venus on the right (not to scale). These are the worlds I saw, though the vision I saw was quite different!