If you are after Venus facts and information, then you’re in the right place!
Venus is the second closely located planet from the Sun – situated between Mercury and Earth. And it’s the second biggest terrestrial planet, after Earth.
The first records of the planet go back to 17th century BC, recorded by Babylonian astronomers. Due to its size and mass similar to Earth, Venus is at times called Earth’s sister planet.
Let’s find out some interesting information and theories about the planet, its composition, size, volume and a host of other things.
Where is Venus?
Venus is located between Earth and Mercury and is the sixth biggest planet in the solar system. It is 108,208,930 kilometers away from the Sun, on an average. That is 0.723 times the Earth’s distance from the Sun.
At its greatest western and eastern elongations, the planet is 45-47 degrees away from the Sun, moving approximately three hours in front of or behind the Sun. Venus wanders a limited distance west or east of the Sun.
Observing Venus from Earth
Venus is named after the Roman goddess that depicts beauty and love. The planet is one of the brightest objects in the sky, second only to the moon.
This brightness could be attributed to its extremely reflective clouds. This means you can easily see the planet during the night from Earth. By the way, Venus would not be visible from Earth if the Sun is right behind it.
Once you have located Venus in the night sky, you would require a telescope to see some of its details. Also, you must have an off-axis mask or planetary filter.
With the naked human eye, you would only see a bright spot of light. A telescope equipped with automatic tracking would be ideal as that would let you focus your complete attention on observing the planet and not spending more time adjusting the scope.
Venus’s Backward Rotation
Compared to a day taken by Earth, Venus takes 243 (Earth) days to rotate completely on its axis. Due to this sluggish spin, Venus cannot have a magnetic field like Earth.
Also, Venus rotates the other way around – opposite to all the other planets that rotate the same way as Earth does. This means if you are standing on Venus’ surface, the Sun would rise and set in opposite directions.
This rotation, called retrograde rotation, is believed to be due to Venus’ collision with a spatial object, most probably an asteroid, which caused Venus to change its rotational path.
Though not scientifically proven, the slow rotation of Venus could be due to its thick atmosphere. Its atmosphere is 100 times thicker than that of Earth and which could be causing the planet to drag with its rotation significantly.
The phenomena of atmospheric mass called tides could actually be pulling things down.
What is it like on Venus?
Venus is extremely hot – the hottest of all planets, in fact. And this despite the planet not being the closest to the Sun.
The surface temperature, on average, is 462 degrees Celsius or 870 degrees Fahrenheit. This amount of heat can even melt lead. And since the planet doesn’t do axis tilts, there aren’t any seasonal variations.
It’s believed Venus once had its fair share of oceans as well, but the extreme temperature evaporated them all.
The planet’s atmosphere isn’t any close to habitable. The hellish atmosphere primarily comprises carbon dioxide with sulphuric acid clouds.
A lot of that heat could be attributed to the carbon dioxide that traps heat, causing a runaway greenhouse effect.
Only minimal amounts of water have been traced in Venus’ atmosphere. Atop the cloud cover, there are strong winds – around 350 kilometers per hour. However, winds closer to the surface of the planet are much slower – clocking not more than some kilometers per hour.
What is Venus made of?
Venus is a terrestrial planet primarily made of metals or silicate rocks. It is composed of carbon dioxide (96.5 percent), nitrogen (3.5 percent), and trace amounts of argon, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, water, neon, and helium.
Like Earth, Venus also has a molten mantle, central core, and a crust. The iron core is approximately 6,000 kilometers wide.
The rocky molten mantle is close to 3,000 kilometers thick. The crust is primarily basalt and is believed to be 10 to 20 kilometers thick on an average.
Recent reports have been indicating that the crust of Venus is thicker and stronger than what it was previously known to be. Also, similar to Earth, mantle convection creates stress on Venus’ surface. But, on Venus, the stress is less concentrated and spread across, unlike Earth.
Venus’ surface is extremely dry – quite understandably so. When the planet first evolved, Sun’s ultraviolet rays evaporated water quickly, ensuring the planet remained in an extended molten state.
Approximately two-thirds of the planet’s surface has smooth, flat plains marred by several thousand volcanoes – some of them are active even today. The volcanoes are 0.8 to 240 kilometers wide. And about a third of the planet has mountainous regions.
Venus also has several unique surface features. For example, it has ring-like structures called coronae, which are anywhere between 155 to 580 kilometers in width. Scientists state these structures developed when hot substance from under the crust showed up, warping the planet’s surface.
Venus also has raised areas called tesserae, which have several valleys and ridges formed in multiple directions.
Magellan imaging radar information exhibited the majority of the planet’s surface had lava cover.
There are many big shield volcanoes like Sif Mons. These volcanoes are similar to Olympus Mons and the ones found in Hawaii.
As aforementioned, some of the volcanoes are still active. These few hot spots have been geologically quiet for several million years, though. Therefore, they are unlikely to re-erupt anytime soon.
Venus doesn’t have small craters. This is probably because asteroids would disintegrate and burn as they enter Venus’s atmosphere. However, the larger craters that do impact on Venus break apart in the atmosphere, leaving behind craters in bunches.
How big is Venus?
Venus’ mass and size is similar to Earth.
It’s only marginally smaller than Earth – 80 percent of Earth’s mass and 95 percent of Earth’s diameter. The planets only have a 638-kilometer diameter difference between them.
Venus’ mean radius is 6,052 kilometers. The planet’s mass is 4.87 trillion trillion kilograms. Venus’ density can also be compared to Earth, which is 5.243 grams for every cubic centimeter. The planet’s volume is 938 billion cubic kilometers, which is about 86 percent of Earth’s volume.
The chemical compositions and densities of both planets are quite similar. However, the atmospheric pressure on the planet is 92 times more compared to Earth.
Is there life on Venus?
Venus, in its present state, is not ideal for human occupation and is definitely not going to join the ranks of Mars anytime soon.
Well, the planet is not just horribly hot but the atmosphere is almost all carbon dioxide. So, there’s just no chance!
However, NASA research models indicate the planet was habitable in its primitive forms.
Venus is almost the exaggerated version of everything that’s not right with Earth. You probably would have heard of acid rain?! The clouds over Venus are essentially sulphuric acid.
Also, due to the significantly increased atmospheric pressure, the pressure a human would feel on the planet’s surface will be on par with the pressure usually experienced in deep-sea scenarios on Earth.
Initially, due to its similarities with Earth, Venus was believed to be habitable. This was the time when the dense cloud cover over Venus didn’t make detailed observations and research possible.
However, after escaping the thick cloud cover and digging deeper, it was found Venus is significantly different from Earth. The planet, in fact, is the least hospitable among all planets in Earth’s solar system.
Does Venus have moons?
Like Mercury, Venus doesn’t have any rings or moons.
Also, unlike most other planets in the solar system, Venus doesn’t have any natural satellites. But this wasn’t the case always. According to scientists, Venus had a moon too like Earth, and its formation was similar to how Earth’s moon was formed – through the coalescence of orbital debris.
What missions have humans sent to explore around Venus?
Venus isn’t the easiest planets to observe or study up-close, and the majority of that difficulty could be attributed to the planet’s surface temperature.
Spacecraft usually don’t survive too long around Venus. Also, at a point, the dense sulphuric acid cloud cover made viewing Venus’ surface from outside its atmosphere impossible.
Thanks to radio mapping, which was invented during the 1960s, scientists could later see and measure the planet’s hostile environment and extreme temperatures. Till date, more than 40 expeditions have been made to Venus.
The first Venus mission was by the Russians in 1961, called Venera. But it, unfortunately, lost contact with Earth en route.
The United States’ first probe called Mariner 1 met a similar fate too. However, Mariner 2 managed to measure up Venus in 1962.
The first man-made spacecraft to be stationed on Venus was Soviet Union’s Venera 3, in 1966. But its communications systems failed before landing and the spacecraft, therefore, couldn’t transmit information back to Earth. The spacecraft crashed on March 1, 1966.
Venera 7, in 1970, was the first space probe to land on Venus and transmit information. Venera 9, in 1975, returned the first set of pictures of the planet’s surface.
NASA’s Magellan, the first space probe to orbit Venus, mapped 98 percent of Venus’ surface with the help of radar, presenting information on the smallest of features.
In 2005, the European Space Agency sent a spacecraft called the Venus Express into Venus’ orbit to gather data about the planet. The expedition was initially planned to be 500 Earth days long. But the mission had to be extended multiple times before the spacecraft could finally deorbit in 2015.
Venus Express conducted atmospheric studies and mapped the planet’s surface temperatures and plasma environment. The expedition helped discover more than 1,000 volcanic centers or volcanoes wider than 20 kilometers.
The spacecraft also found proof of lightning on Venus. This lightning is unlike the lightning found on Earth or other planets, as it has no connection to water clouds. Instead, the lightning is linked with sulphuric acid clouds. These electrical discharges could break molecules and turn them into fragments, which could later merge with other fragments.
In 2010, Japan’s Akatsuki was launched to Venus. However, the spacecraft’s primary engine died midway, sending the craft hurling back into space.
List of Key Statistics about Venus
- Distance from Earth: 261 million kilometers
- Distance from Sun: 108.2 million kilometers
- Temperature: 462 degrees Celsius
- Mass: 4.87 x 10^24 kg (81.5% Earth)
- Surface area: 460.2 million km²
- Volume: 938 billion cubic kilometers
- Diameter: 12,104 kilometres
- Radius: 6,052 kilometres
- Orbital Period: 225 days
Further Information about planet Venus
- NASA: Venus Planet Overview
- Wikipedia: Venus
- Listen to the NASA Gravity Assist podcast on Venus
- Venus facts for kids (from NASA)
- Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum: Exploring the Planets online exhibition