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Key Facts & Information
- Venus is the second planet from the Sun and the sixth largest. Together with Mercury, they are the only planets without a satellite. Even though Mercury is closer to the Sun, Venus is the hottest planet. It reflects 70% of all the sunlight it receives which is why it shines so brightly. Venus doesn’t have any moons or ring systems and its magnetosphere is weak due to its slow rotation.
- Surface Temperature: 462 °C
- Orbit Period: 224.70 Earth days
- Notable Moons: None
- Known Moons: None
- Equatorial Circumference: 38,025 km
- Equatorial Diameter: 12,104 km
- More than about 62 degrees hotter than Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, it was concluded that Venus has the hottest surface out of all the planets.
- Its thick atmosphere traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect greatly contributing to the planet’s high temperatures.
- Venus is the only planet named after a female deity and it is the brightest planet in the Solar System.
- It isn’t possible to pinpoint the exact discovery date of Venus. Due to its brightness, it can be easily seen with the naked eye, meaning that any ancient civilization could be credited with the first observation.
- Copernicus, and later Galileo Galilei, are however credited with Venus’s classification as a planet while Mikhail Lomonosov has been credited with initially discovering the planet’s gaseous atmosphere in 1761. This claim was later verified in 1790 by astronomer Johann Schroter.
- Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, a counterpart to Ancient Greece’s Aphrodite. The Greek word aphros means “foam”. In fact, Aphrodite was widely adored as a goddess of the sea and war. However, she was known primarily as a goddess of love and fertility and even occasionally presided over marriage.
- Venus is the first and only planet with a feminine name, and has even been adopted as the symbol of womanhood. Prior to being officially dubbed Venus, the Greeks and Romans had unknowingly turned Venus into two different stars.
- To the Greeks, Venus was both Phosphorus and Hesperus and to the Romans, it was recognised as Lucifer and Vesper. Both nations didn’t know that the alleged two stars they were referencing was actually one body until later when further observations were conducted and its orbit was understood.
Distance, Size & Mass
- Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun, at a distance of 108.2 million km/ 67.24 mi or 0.7 AU receiving the Sun’s light in 6 minutes.
- Venus has a radius of 6,051 km or 3,760 miles and a diameter of 12,104 km or 7,521 mi, slightly smaller than Earth.
- It has a mass of 4.87 × 1024 kg, or 85% that of Earth. The mentioned similarities also give way to similar densities, Venus having a density of 5.24 grams per cubic centimeter, while Earth has 5.52. It also has as much volume as Earth – 928.45 billion cubic km compared to Earth’s 1083.21 billion.
- Its closest approach to Earth happens once every 584 days, when the planets catch up to one another.
Orbit And Rotation
- Venus orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 0.72 AU and completes an orbit every 224.7 days.
- When Venus lies between Earth and the Sun in inferior conjunction, it makes the closest approach to Earth of any planet at a distance of 41 million km or 25 million miles. Venus spends most of its time away from Earth.
- When Venus passes between Earth and the Sun, it usually doesn’t cross the face of the Sun. Transits of Venus occur when the planet’s inferior conjunction coincides with its presence in the plane of Earth’s orbit.
- Transits of Venus occur in cycles of 243 years with the current pattern of transits being pairs of transits separated by eight years, at intervals of about 105.5 years or 121.5.
- Venus has a retrograde rotation, moving in the opposite direction than most planets. Only Uranus does this too. They both move from East to West, clockwise. Venus does this rotation once every 243 Earth days, having the slowest rotation out of all the planets in the Solar System.
- This slow rotation also influences its shape, making Venus very spherical.
- As a comparison, Venus’s equator rotates at 6.52 km/h while Earth’s rotates at 1,674.4 km/h.
- Venus has tilted away from the plane of the ecliptic by 2.7 degrees meaning it is almost completely upside down. Because of this, Venus almost doesn’t experience any seasons, spinning nearly upright.
- Venus is very similar to Earth in its structure. The core is approximately 2,000 miles or 3,200 kilometres in radius. Above that core rests a mantle of hot rock, slowly churning due to the planet’s interior heat. As a result the surface is a thin crust of rock that bulges and moves as Venus’s mantle shifts, and creates volcanoes.
- As noted above, the composition of the Venusian crust is believed to be dominated by basalt. Gravity data suggests that the thickness of the crust is fairly uniform over much of the planet, with typical values of perhaps 20–50 km (12–30 miles).
- About 80% of the Venusian surface is covered by smooth, volcanic plains, consisting of 70% plains with ridges and 10% smooth or lobate plains.
- The highest mountain on Venus is named Maxwell Montes with its peak about 11 kilometres or 7 miles above the Venusian average surface elevation.
- It is believed that the volcanoes on the surface of Venus repaved the planet. There is much indirect evidence that volcanic activity is ongoing to this day.
- With few and small impact craters, it is suggested that Venus’s dense atmosphere burns up smaller meteors.
- Atmosphere. The atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide (96.5%) and 3.5% nitrogen with traces of other gases, most notably sulphur dioxide. Venus has thick clouds mainly composed of sulphuric acid droplets, around 75-96%.
- This thick atmosphere traps the Sun’s heat, reflecting 75% of the sunlight that falls on them. This atmosphere results in surface temperatures higher than 465 degrees Celsius, 900 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt lead.
- Magnetosphere. Regardless of Venus’s similar size to Earth, and its similarly sized iron core, the magnetic field is much weaker than that of Earth’s due to slow rotation. Thus it is generally regarded as not having a magnetosphere.
- It does, however, have an induced magnetosphere formed by the Sun’s magnetic field carried by solar wind.
- Theories suggest that Venus might once have had a moon, which formed after a collision. After this, a second collision occurred that shattered the moon. It is believed that even this moon actually collided into Venus, creating its unusual rotation.
- Being so close to Earth, Venus has seen over 40 spacecrafts landing upon her. Due to its proximity, it will always be a target for future studies and even possible colonisation. Scientists have even had discussions about “floating cities” on Venus.
- It is widely believed that Venus was once a habitable planet with vast oceans. Some even considered that life might have actually evolved there and later shifted somehow to Earth. Others believe that Venus possessed oceans, but due to the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is theorised that the planet was covered in a carbon dioxide fluid that eventually evaporated.
Did You Know?
- Temperatures remain the same on Venus regardless of day and night.
- Venus always lies within 47 degrees of the Sun.
- Earth orbits the Sun 8 times for every 13 orbits of Venus.
- Venus has several times as many volcanoes as Earth, and it has 167 large volcanoes that are over 100 km (62 mi) across.
- The Russians were the first to send an unmanned spacecraft to Venus in 1967. The spacecraft was named Venera 4.
- Venus is the first planet in the Solar System to have its orbit plotted in the sky by ancient civilizations.
- Mercury and Venus orbit the Sun within Earth’s orbit, which makes them inferior planets.