Abstract Ground-based and spacecraft photometry covering phase angles from 2° to 179° has been acquired in wavelength bands from blue to near infrared. An unexpected brightness surge is seen in the B and V bands when the disk of Venus is less than 2% illuminated. This excess luminosity appears to be the result of forward scattering from droplets of H 2SO 4 (sulfuric acid) in the high atmosphere of Venus. The fully sunlit brightness of Venus, adjusted to a distance of one AU from the Sun and observer, was found to be V = − 4.38 , and the corresponding geometric albedo is 67%. The phase integral is 1.35 and the resulting spherical albedo is 90%. Comparison between our data and photometry obtained over the past 50 years indicates a bias in the older photoelectric results, however atmospheric abundance variations suggest that brightness changes may have occurred too.