Top Facts about Planet Venus

Venus, the second planet from the sun, is the second brightest object in the night sky, dimmer only than the moon. This brightness is due partially to the fact that Venus comes closer to the Earth than any other planet, partially to the fact that it is very close to the sun at a distance of 67 million miles, and partially because its thick atmosphere does an excellent job of reflecting sunlight back into space.

Because of its brilliance, Venus has been observed by humans for thousands and thousands of years. Sometimes called the morning star or the evening star because it is at its brightest at sunrise and sunset, the ancient Romans named it Venus after their goddess of love and beauty. Similar in size and gravity and with a rocky body like the Earth’s, Venus is sometimes called Earth’s sister. On closer inspection, though, it is very, very different. Although Venus appears serene like a beautiful bright star at a distance, the surface of the planet is hazardous. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system because of its thick, toxic atmosphere, mostly carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid, that allows it to retain the sun’s heat. Venus has no oceans: it is far too hot for water. Most of its surface is dry, rocky desert plains. Because of its dense atmosphere, the pressure on Venus’s surface is 92 times greater than Earth’s. The heat, pressure, and corrosive atmosphere on Venus has proved a challenge for scientists attempting to map and explore its surface. More than three dozen spacecraft have made at least partially successful missions to Venus, beginning with NASA’s Mariner 2 spacecraft flying by in 1962.

Venus’s clouds prevented observation of its surface from space, however, and in 1967 the Soviet lander Venera 4 touched down on its surface. Due to the hostile surface conditions, it only survived for 23 minutes. Later probes were built to better withstand conditions on venus, but even the most successful only transmitted data for 110 minutes, not quite two hours. Still, the landers and probes lasted long enough to give us a peek beneath the cloud cover and teach us more about Venus. Venus rotates very slowly, only once every 243 days, and it spins backwards compared to the Earth and most other planets. That means that if you were on Venus and could see it through the clouds, the sun would seem to rise in the west and set in the east. I hope you enjoyed learning facts about Venus today.