Named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus is the Earth’s closest neighbor and the second planet from the Sun at a distance of about 67 million miles. Venus has been observed since the dawn of Mankind. It is the brightest object in the sky except for the Sun and the Moon. The planet itself is visible in the night sky a few hours before sunrise (as the Morning Star) & after sunset (as the Evening Star) at certain times of the year and it looks like a brilliant blue-white star. Venus can rarely also be seen passing between the Earth and the Sun, and on such occasions appears as a black dot travelling across the Sun. The next time this will happen will be in 2117.
Venus is sometimes regarded as Earth’s sister planet as it’s only slightly smaller at 95% of Earth’s diameter and 80% of Earth’s mass. The surface of Venus is covered in with craters, volcanoes, mountains, and big lava plains. While the highest elevations of Venus rival those of Earth, these features are less abundant. In fact, the elevated areas, similar to continents here on Earth, only comprise about 8% of the total surface area, compared to 25% of the surface area on Earth.
Venus atmosphere is covered in hot, thick clouds and they’re composed mostly of carbon dioxide. There are several layers of clouds many miles thick composed of sulfuric acid. The clouds trap the energy from the sun and create a greenhouse effect making Venus the hottest planet in the solar system. Average temperature on the planet is 735 Kelvin, or 462 degrees. Hot enough to melt lead.
Venus rotates about its axis and takes 225 Earth days to complete one orbit of the Sun. What makes venus different then any other planet is that Venus is the only planet that rotates from east to west instead of west to east. Venus also rotates so slowly that one day on Venus is equivalent to 117 days on Earth. Venus has no magnetic field, perhaps because of its slow rotation.
Until recently, the dense clouds that cover Venus prevented us from getting a good look at it’s surface. The first ideas of what the planet may look like came in the 1960s when we were able to see through the clouds, albeit in quite a primitive fashion, with radar imaging from ground-based telescopes. A huge breakthrough occurred in 1978 when a NASA spacecraft, Pioneer Venus, was able to do some low resolution mapping of the surface. In 1982 an even bigger breakthrough occurred when the USSR sent two Soviet Venera probes which landed on the surface and were able to send back a few poorly aimed pictures before they were destroyed by the intense temperature and pressure. The showed a barren rocky terrain.
- Venus spins backwards when compared to the other planets. This means that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
- Venus has no moons nor rings.
- Venus is the only planet in the Solar System to be named after a female figure.
- When Venus is in line with Earth and the sun, it is the closest planet to us, at an average distance of 25.5 million miles away.