Venus

Venus

Venus is the second planet from the Sun and our closest planetary neighbor. 

Similar in structure and size to Earth, Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction from most planets. 

Its thick atmosphere traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect, making it the hottest planet in our solar system with surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead. Glimpses below the clouds reveal volcanoes and deformed mountains.

Venus is named for the ancient Roman goddess of love and beauty, who was known as Aphrodite to the Ancient Greeks.

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Potential for life

No human has ever visited venus, but the spacecrafts taht have been sent to the surface of Venus do not last very long there. Venus' high surface temperatures overheat electronics in spacecraft in a short time, so it seems unlikely that a person could survive for long on the Venusian surface.

There is speculation about life existing in Venus' distant past, as well as questions about the possibility of life in the top cloud layers of Venus' atmosphere, where the temperatures are less extreme.

Venus has no rings.

Surface

Froms space, Venus is bright white because it is covered with clouds that reflect and scatter sunlight. At the surface, the rocks are different shades of grey, like rocks on Earth, but the thick atmosphere filters the sunlight so that everything would look orange if you were standing on Venus.

Venus has mountains, valleys, and tens of thousands of volcanoes. The highest mountain on Venus, Maxwell Montes, is 20,000 feet high (8.8 kilometers), similar to the highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest. The landscape is dusty, and surface temperatures reach a scalding 880 degrees Fahrenheit (470 degrees Celsius).

Venus is covered in craters, but none are smaller than 0.9 to 1.2 miles (1.5 to 2 kilometers) across. Small meteoroids burn up in the dense atmosphere, so only large meteoroids reach the surface and create impact craters.

Formation

When the solar system settled into its current layout about 4.5 billion years ago, Venus formed when gravity pulled swirling gas and dust together to form the second planet from the Sun. 

Like its fellow terrestrial planets, Venus has a central core, a rocky mantle and a solid crust.

Orbit and rotation

Venus rotation and orbit are unusual in several ways, Venus is one of just two planets that rotate from east to west.

 Only Venus and Uranus have this "backwards" rotation. It completes one rotation in 243 Earth days — the longest day of any planet in our solar system, even longer than a whole year on Venus. 

But the Sun doesn't rise and set each "day" on Venus like it does on most other planets. On Venus, one day-night cycle takes 117 Earth days because Venus rotates in the direction opposite of its orbital revolution around the Sun.

Atmosphere

Venus atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets

The thick atmosphere traps the Sun's heat, resulting in surface temperatures higher than 880 degrees Fahrenheit (470 degrees Celsius). The atmosphere has many layers with different temperatures. At the level where the clouds are, about 30 miles up from the surface (48.2 kilometers), it's about the same temperature as on the surface of the Earth.

As Venus moves forward in its solar orbit while slowly rotating backwards on its axis, the top level of clouds zips around the planet every four Earth days, driven by hurricane-force winds traveling at about 224 miles (360 kilometers) per hour. Atmospheric lightning bursts light up these quick-moving clouds. Speeds within the clouds decrease with cloud height, and at the surface are estimated to be just a few miles per hour.

On the ground, it would look like a very hazy, overcast day on Earth. And the atmosphere is so heavy it would feel like you were 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) deep underwater.

Size and distance

With a radius of 3,760 miles (6,052 kilometers), Venus is roughly the same size as Earth — just slightly smaller.

From an average distance of 67 million miles (108 million kilometers), Venus is 0.7 astronomical units away from the Sun. One astronomical unit (abbreviated as AU), is the distance from the Sun to Earth.

 It takes sunlight 6 minutes to travel from the Sun to Venus.

Magnetosphere

Even tho venus is similar in size to the Earth and has a similarly-sized iron core, Venus' magnetic field is much weaker than the Earth's due to Venus' slow rotation. ​

Structure

Venus is in many ways similar to earth in its structure. 

It has an iron core that is approximately 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) in radius. Above that is a mantle made of hot rock slowly churning due to the planet's interior heat. 

The surface is a thin crust of rock that bulges and moves as Venus' mantle shifts and creates volcanoes.

Venus has no moons.

Quick facts

Day: 243 Earth days

Year: 225 Earth days

Radius: 3,760 miles | 6,052 kilometers

Planet type: Terrestrial

Temperature: 880 degrees Fahrenheit / 471 degrees Celsius

Moons: No moons

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Jupiter

Jupiter is our fith planet from our Sun and is by far, the largest planet in the solar system - more than twice as massive as all the other planets combined. Jupiter's stripes and swirls are actually cold, windy clouds of ammonia and water, floating in an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot is a giant storm bigger than Earth that has raged for hundreds of years.

Jupiter is surrounded by dozens of moons. Jupiter also has several rings, but unlike the famous rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s rings are very faint and made of dust, not ice.

In Depth | Jupiter – NASA Solar System Exploration

solarsystem.nasa.gov

Mercury

The smallest planet in our solar system and nearerst to the Sun, 

Mecury is only slightly larger than the Earth's Moon. From the surface of Mercury, the sun would appear more than three times as large as it does when viewed from Earth, and the sunlight would be as much as seven times brighter. 

Despite its proximity to the Sun, Mercury is not the hottest planet in our solar system – that title belongs to nearby Venus, thanks to its dense atmosphere. 

Mercury is the fastest planet, zipping around the Sun every 88 Earth days.

Mercury is appropriately named for the swiftest of the ancient Roman gods.

In Depth | Mercury – NASA Solar System Exploration

solarsystem.nasa.gov

Once every 26 months, Earth and Mars are aligned to enable spacecraft to reach it in about half a year. Space agencies launch probes during these conjunctions.

  • The most recent launches were the Hope spacecraft of the United Arab Emirates, to study its atmosphere and weather patterns.
  • China launched its Tianwen-1.
  • The United States launched its Perseverance rover to study Martian climate and weather, test technologies that could help humans survive, and collect samples from rocks.

The robotic activity is laying the groundwork for sending humans to Mars.

Why we explore Mars—and what decades of missions have revealed

nationalgeographic.com

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