About Venus: Overview

Instructor: Katie Chamberlain

Katie has a PhD in Microbiology and has experience preparing online education content in Biology and Earth Science.

You've likely heard the expression 'men are from Mars, women are from Venus.' While this may not be factually true, have you ever wondered if it would actually be possible to live on the second planet from the sun? Read on to learn more about Venus, and why we likely won't be moving there anytime soon.

History

Venus is the second planet from the Sun and one of eight planets in our solar system. It was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, during the birth of our Sun. Venus derives its name from the Roman goddess of beauty. This is likely because it was the brightest and most beautiful planet that ancient civilizations could see. Even today, Venus's brightness is wondrous to behold.

Basic Stats

Venus is often referred to as Earth's twin because they are similar in size. It has a diameter of 12,103 km, which is roughly 95% of Earth's diameter. It is also approximately 82% of Earth's mass, and has an almost identical density.

Venus's general structure is similar to the other three terrestrial planets (Mercury, Earth, and Mars). It has three layers: a crust, mantle, and core. Data suggests that the crust is 50 km, the mantle is 3000 km, and the core is 6000 km thick, although no direct measurements have been made. Like most terrestrial planets, Venus does not have any moons.

The layers of Venus
The layers of Venus

Rotation and Revolution

Venus's year is much shorter than Earth's at only 225 Earth days, and its orbit is approximately 108 million km from the Sun. Venus has an interesting rotation, because it spins clockwise, which is in the opposite direction of the other planets. This rotation phenomenon is called retrograde rotation. Astronomers suspect that this reversal occurred due to a large collision in Venus's past.

Venus spins very slowly, possibly as an artifact of its retrograde rotation. It takes the planet 243 Earth days to rotate completely on its axis, which means that its day is longer than its year. Although, interestingly, its sunrises are only 117 days apart since the planet does not have to rotate all the way in order to face the Sun again (due to a combination of its slow retrograde rotation and its revolution).

Venus
Venus

Surface

Venus's surface is hidden by a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds (so it might smell like rotten eggs). There is almost no water detectable, and the pressure is 90 times greater than on Earth. Winds can exceed 220 mph in the upper atmosphere, a greater speed than the worst hurricane winds on Earth.

The temperature on Venus is so scorching that NASA probes have been destroyed within only a few hours. The surface has been recorded to be 465 degrees Celsius, which is the highest of any planet in our solar system. This is likely caused by its thick atmosphere trapping heat in a greenhouse effect.

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