Each time you look up to the sky and see a star you are looking at a sun in another galaxy. If you were on another planet looking back at our solar system, you would see our sun as a star.
It’s believed that every sun has planets orbiting it. Our Milky Way galaxy has more planets than it has stars. In our solar system we have eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are the inner rocky planets.
Jupiter and Saturn are the outer gas giants. Uranus and Neptune are the outer ice giants. In recent years, astronomers have designed a new class called the “dwarf planets.”
These are smaller worlds, not quite big enough to be considered a standard planet, and include Pluto. Venus is the second planet from the sun.
- View on Maps: google.com/maps/space/venus
- Distance from Sun: 67.24 million mi
- Radius: 3,760 mi
- Diameter: 7,520.8 mi
- Orbital period: 225 days
- Mass: 4.867 × 10^24 kg 0.815 M⊕
- Surface Temperature: 462 °C
- Number of Moons: None
- First Recorded: 17th century BCE by Babylon astronomers
How did Venus get its name:
Throughout history, Venus was one of the planets that many civilizations recognized. Named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, it was also known by the Greeks as Aphrodite. All of the planets in our solar system are named after male gods or mythological creatures, with the exception of Venus.
It is the only planet named after a female and it’s thought that it was because it is the brightest planet.
At one time, some of the astronomers in the ancient past thought that Venus was actually two stars.
This was due to the fact that it appeared as both the morning and the evening star. Because it was so bright, astronomers assumed that the planet itself must be beautiful.
However, once space exploration began, scientists realized that the planet had a horrible environment.
Many missions have been sent to Venus but it’s almost impossible to get to the surface of the planet due to its extremely hot temperatures.
Formation and Rotation:
Around 4.5 billion years ago our solar system finally settled into its current configuration. What this means is that there were quite a few planets that were relocating from one place to another.
Scientists have a theory that we may have had other planets that were either thrown out into the universe or that collided and merged to create the current planets.
Venus formed when swirling gas and dust was pulled by gravity. Venus is a “terrestrial planet” and therefore has a central core, a rocky mantle and a solid crust.
Because they share similar gravity, composition, density, mass, and size, Earth and Venus have often been referred to as “twins.” However, those are the only similarities between the two planets.
Venus’ heat, combined with the inner pressures have given the planet over 1,600 volcanoes. While scientists think that most are dormant, there are some that may still be active.
Venus has the honor of being the only single planet in our solar system, other than our Earth, to have volcanic activity and the Venus has the most volcanoes. This makes it the single planet with the most volcanoes in the solar system.
Due to its slow rotation on its axis, one day on Venus takes 243 Earth-days to complete one rotation.
It is thought that billions of years ago, Venus might have had a similar climate as the one on Earth. Scientists think that there may have been large amounts of water, even big enough to create oceans on Venus.
However, the high temperatures on Venus that produce the extreme greenhouse effect, allowed the water to boil off. This left a planet that is too hostile and hot to sustain life as we know it.
Structure and Surface:
There are a lot of similarities between Venice and Earth, and one of the most notable is its structure. Venus has a 2,000 mi/3,200 km radius iron core.
Above the core is a mantle that consists of hot rock similar to lava that churns slowly due to the interior heat of the planet.
The surface is a bulging thin rock crust that moves as the mantle shifts. This movement creates the volcanoes.
Looking at Venus from out in space it appears as a very bright white color. This tone is due to the fact that Venus is covered in a thick layer of clouds that reflect the sunlight.
Peering through the clouds shows that the surface is covered in rocks and volcanoes. The rocks are various shades of grey and appear to be similar to those on Earth.
However, the thick atmosphere causes the sunlight and if you were standing on Venus, the rocks would look orange.
Venus is covered in valleys, mountains and tens of thousands of volcanoes. The tallest mountain on Venus is Maxwell Montes, standing over 20,000 ft/8.8 km high.
It is similar to Earth’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. The landscape is rather dusty and the temperatures on the surface can reach as high as 880 degrees F/471 degrees C.
Scientists believe that the surface of Venus was completely changed as volcanic activity occurred 300-500 million years ago. Venus has two highland areas:
Ishtar Terra in the northern polar region, about the size of Australia; and Aphrodite Terra near the equator, about the size of South America. Aphrodite Terra is around 6,000 mi/10,000 km.
There are an enormous number of craters on Venus, however, none seem to be smaller than 0.9-1.2 mi (1.5-2 km) across.
The craters are caused by meteoroids striking the surface and since the smaller ones burn up in the dense atmosphere, only the biggest ones make it through to hit the surface.
Atmosphere. Magnetosphere, and Moon Status:
There are two broad layers of atmosphere on Venus including one layer that is a cloud bank covering the entire plant, and another that includes everything that is below the cloud bank.
The consistency of the clouds is very dense and they are made up of sulfuric acid and Sulphur dioxide. Between the mixtures and density, the clouds reflect around 60% of the sunlight that hits Venus back out into space.
Even though it’s the second planet closest to the sun, it is the single hottest planet within our solar system.
The atmosphere of Venus is mostly made up of carbon dioxide and has clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. This thick atmosphere is responsible for trapping the heat of the sun and creates the intensely hot surface temperature of up to 880 degrees F/470 degrees C.
The atmosphere itself consists of many layers and the temperatures vary within each layer. Around 30 mi from the surface, the clouds have about the same temperature as we find on Earth’s surface.
If you could stand on the ground on Venus, you would look around and it would appear like a very overcast and hazy day on Earth, however, due to the heavy atmosphere, you would feel like you were 1 mi/1.6 km under water.
One of the astounding things about Venus is that as it moves forward in its orbit around the sun combined with a backwards axis rotation, the clouds in the top level whip around the planet every 4 Earth days at hurricane-force winds of 224 mi/360 km per hour.
The lightning bursts in the atmosphere light up the clouds. The closer you get to the surface, the slower the cloud speed becomes so that those closest to the surface are only moving at a few mph.
The slow rotation of Venus makes the magnetic field a lot weaker than on Earth. Even though Earth and Venus share similar size and seem to have similarly-sized iron cores, Earth’s faster rotation allows us a stronger magnetosphere.
Venus doesn’t have any moons or rings.
Could Life Exist on Venus?
There have been no humans that have visited Venus, but there have been a few spacecraft that have been sent to the surface. Due to the extreme heat, the spacecraft have not survived very long as they overheat all of the electronics on the crafts.
These high temperatures are the reason that we don’t believe that life could exist on the surface, however there are some scientists that speculate that there may be a possibility of life in the top cloud layers of the atmosphere of Venus. These upper cloud layers have less extreme temperatures.
As the second planet from the Sun, Venus is our closest neighbor in our solar system. Although very similar in size and structure to our Earth, Venus spins more slowly and in the opposite direction than most of the planets in our solar system.
Venus has a thick atmosphere that traps the heat from the sun giving it a “runaway greenhouse effect.” It is the hottest planet in the solar system with surface temperatures hot in enough to melt lead and other metals.
The few glimpses that we have had of Venus below its dense clouds have shown badly deformed mountains and volcanoes.
Scientists have noted a rather odd thing about the rotation of Venus. It’s rotation is in the opposite directions of most of the other planets, with only Uranus and Venus rotating clockwise.
This is called a “retrograde rotation,” and is thought to have occurred when collisions happened back in its history of formation.
A collision with a major object could have been strong enough to change the rotations of the planets.
Venus is the only planet in our solar system named for a female, and to do this honor justice, almost all of the surface features on Venus carry the name for both real and mythological women of Earth.
There is a volcanic crater named for Sacajawea, the Native American woman who played a key role in guiding the Lewis and Clark exploration in America, and a deep canyon is called “Diana,” after the Roman goddess of the hunt.
Space Missions to Venus:
- Akatsuki 2010: The Venus Climate Orbiter mission (PLANET-C), or “AKATSUKI”, is studying Venus’ atmospheric circulation.
- Venus Express 2005: The (ESA) European Space Agency’s Venus Express is studying the Venus atmosphere including the surface to the ionosphere.
- Galileo 1989: The orbiter included ten science instruments as well as an atmospheric probe to study Jupiter, its moons, and the magnetosphere as it orbited.
- Magellan 1989: Accomplished its mission as the first to ever arrive and map Venus’ entire surface.
- Vega 2 1984: The sister spacecraft to Vega 1, with an almost identical mission as Vega 1.
- Vega 1 1984: The most ambitious deep space mission by the Soviets with twin spacecraft designed with redundant mission goals.
- Venera 16 1983: Soviet twins Venera 15 and 16 orbiters, the mission was to use radar to create a detailed map of the surface of Venus with a resolution of 1-2 km or around 1 mile.
- Venera 15 1983: Soviet twins Venera 15 and 16 orbiters, the mission was to use radar to create a detailed map of the surface of Venus with a resolution of 1-2 km or around 1 mile.
- Venera 14 1981: Identical to its twin, Venera 13, the Soviet mission of the spacecraft was carried out as it had three corrections midcourse on its way to Venus.
- Venera 13 1981: Designed similarly to the previous Soviet twin missions, Venera 13 and 14 were spacecraft to accomplish Venus flybys.
- Venera 12 1978: Soviet mission with a twin Venera 11, to accomplish a flyby and then a lander to explore the ionosphere, atmosphere, and surface of Venus.
On January 31, 2019, a research group from Japan identified a huge streak structure amidst the Venus clouds.
Using the observations from the Japanese spacecraft, Akatuski, the team used large-scale climate simulations to discover the origins of the structure.
Facts about Venus for Kids:
- Venus has over 1,600 volcanoes, the most of any planet within the solar system.
- It takes Venus 243 Earth days to make one complete rotation.
- Compared to Earth’s 365 days, it takes Venus only 224.7 Earth days to make one rotation around the sun.
- The surface of Venus is so hot that it would melt lead and scientists call it a “runaway greenhouse effect.”
- If you could stand on the surface of Venus, the air pressure would be so extreme, that it would be like being under Earth’s ocean half a mile down.
- The only planets that we can visibly see cross in front of the sun called “transits” are Mercury and Venus.
- Venus has wind storms that can get up to 450 mph/724 kph, which is faster than the largest Earth tornado.
Venus was named after the goddess of love and beauty, and the name has become synonymous in our society with “women.”
An example of this was the book was written in 1992 by author John Gray, entitled “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” where Gray referenced the two planets as a relationship guide for men and women.
Early 20th century science fiction writers also loved using Venus as a popular destination in their books.
This was, of course, before science had discovered how horrible the surface and atmosphere was.
In today’s video games, Venus has been used as a backdrop for such games as Transhuman Space, Battlezone, and Destiny.
Even Disney fans will remember the animated film “The Princess and the Frog,” where the firefly, Ray falls in love with Venus, “the evening star”, whom he mistakes as another firefly.