In his 1950 book, Worlds in Collision, Immanuel Velikovsky posited that Venus was released as a comet or comet-like object by Jupiter in 1500 BC, and that it passed close to earth. The near encounter between Venus and earth caused a change in earth’s orbit and its axis of rotation. According to Velikovsky, this resulted in massive catastrophes on earth which have been chronicled in ancient mythologies from around the world.
At the time of the publication of Velikovsky’s book, scientists knew very little about Venus. As late as 1959, scientists believed that the surface temperature of Venus was 17 degrees centigrade—three degrees above the mean annual temperature of the earth—and that the atmosphere in Venus was as clear as that on earth. But Velikovsky theorized that due to its stormy history, Venus must be very hot and it would be radiating massive amounts of heat. He posited that Venus must be enveloped by a thick cloud of hydrocarbon gases and dust.
Velikovsky’s view of Venus was vindicated in 1961, when radio telescopes found that the ground temperature of Venus was between 315 degrees and 600 degrees centigrade. In December 1962, the Mariner II spacecraft passed Venus, and it detected surface temperatures as high as 800 degrees centigrade. On the basis of the data sent by Mariner II, NASA scientists announced in February 1963 that Venus was shrouded in a 15 mile thick cloud of hydrocarbon gases and dust, hovering 45 miles above the ground.
Even though Velikovsky was right about some characteristics of Venus (and of Jupiter and earth), scientists have rejected his theory that Venus was a comet which caused catastrophes on earth when it became a planet, around 1500 BC.
The Dresden Codex, one of the only four Maya codices which survived the book burnings orchestrated by the Spanish conquistadors and Jesuits in the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, contains data related to Venus movements that some historians believe correlates with the idea of a close encounter between earth and Venus. The Dresden Codex was probably written in the 12th century AD. But archeologists believe that it was composed centuries before that, and it was copied for generations.
The Maya were great astronomers—they developed some of the most accurate pre-telescope data on the movement of celestial bodies. Most of their recordings correlate with modern measurements. Their data of the sky in the period of 1500 BC, contained in the Dresden Codex, suggests a very anomalous behavior in the movement of Venus and earth.