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Questions About Venus

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  • Venus is the brightest planet in the Solar System and can be seen even in daylight if you know where to look.  When Venus is west of the Sun, she rises before the Sun in the morning and is known as the Morning Star.  When she is east of the Sun, she shines in the evening just after sunset and is known as the Evening Star.

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  • The word planet is from the ancient Greek word πλάνητης, planets, which means a wanderer, because they move through the stars, which seem to be fixed in the sky.  This movement is because the planets are all orbiting around the sun.

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  • Venus orbits round the sun in 225 days.  The Earth takes 365 days to complete an orbit of the sun.  So a year on Venus only lasts for 262 days!

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  • Venus has phases like the moon because the orbit of Venus is between the Earth and the Sun.  When Venus shows only a crescent, like the crescent moon, she is at her brightest because she is then very close to the Earth.  You can only see the crescent with the help of a telescope, but this photograph shows the crescent moon and a bright Venus in the evening sky.

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Figure 1.  Venus and the Crescent Moon.

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  • The planets in the Solar system are given the names of Roman Gods or their attendants.  Venus is called after the Roman Goddess of love and beauty.

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  • Venus is the planet which is closest to the Earth and is a little smaller than  the Earth.  The diameter of the Earth (the distance right round the middle of the Earth at the equator) is 12,760 kilometres, or 7926 miles.  The diameter of Venus is 12,103 kilometres, or 7520 miles.

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  • Venus looks bigger than the Earth in figure 1 because of the very deep layer of gases that surround the planet.

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  • Venus, like the other planet between the Earth and the Sun, Mercury, has no moons.

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  • Venus is 67 million miles, or 108 million kilometres, from the Sun.

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  • Venus is covered by clouds of water vapour and sulphuric acid and the surface cannot be seen with an ordinary astronomy telescope.

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  • Venus is the hottest planet in the Solar System, even hotter than Mercury, which is closer to the Sun.  The temperature on the surface of Venus is about 860° Fahrenheit or 460° Celsius.  Compare this to a warm summer’s day in London, when the temperature might be 80° Fahrenheit or 26° Celsius.

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  • The atmosphere on Venus is composed of carbon dioxide.  The surface is heated by radiation from the sun, but the heat cannot escape through the clouds and layer of carbon dioxide. (This is a “greenhouse effect”).

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  • In 1975 the Soviet Union sent two spacecraft landers to Venus, Venera 9 and Venera 10. These landers were the very first to reach the planet’s surface and they  sent back images to the Earth.  It is not a very clear picture but it is famous since this is the first photograph we have of the surface of Venus.

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Figure 2.  The first photograph of Venus' surface, taken in 1975.

It shows a bare landscape with volcanic rocks of about a metre high

  • The USA space agency, NASA, were able to see more of the surface of Venus by using advanced radar systems.  NASA’s Magellan spacecraft completed a full map of Venus’ surface in 1993.

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  • Venus has continents, mountains and craters.  This NASA photograph, taken by Magellan spacecraft radar that can get through the cloud, shows a planet that looks quite like the Earth. 

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Figure 3.  A NASA photograph of Venus, showing continents and mountains.

  • There is no life at all on Venus and life could never be supported there because of the extreme heat and the atmosphere.

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  • The mountains and craters on Venus have all been given female names such as the crater called Billie Holiday after a female American jazz singer.

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  • There is only one male name -  the Maxwell Mountains which are called after the Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell.

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  • The largest continent on Venus has been named Aphrodite.  Aphrodite was the Greek Goddess of love and beauty and is really the same deity as Venus.

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