Venus our bright queen of the sky, is the second innermost planet our Solar System and although no exact date is known of its discovery one of the earliest records comes from the Babylonian astronomers around 17,000 BC. Venus the brightest of the 5 visible planets known to ancient astronomers was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite but it is more a vision of hell! Earth’s closest neighbour, a day on Venus lasts longer than its year! The slow rotational period means that a day lasts for 5832 earth hours, which is the equivalent of 224.65 Earth days while a Venusian year lasts 243 Earth days, just a little less than our own Earth orbit. The clockwise rotation of Venus is unique to all the planets of our Solar System which rotate counter-clockwise. This means that from the surface the Sun would appear to rise in the West and then set in the East.
Venus is often refered to as Earths sister planet because they are so alike in size, mass, density, composition and gravity. However these stats are where the similarities end. Temperatures on Venus reach a staggering 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees Celsius) which is hot enough to melt lead. These Temperatures are due to the runaway greenhouse effects of the atmosphere rather than its proximity to the sun! The hellish atmosphere on Venus consists mostly of carbon dioxide, nitrogen with minor amounts of sulphur dioxide, argon, water, carbon monoxide, helium and neon so not things you really want to be breathing. The heavy atmosphere which is 90 times heavier than our own, to give you an idea of what that would be like these are the pressures that a submarine experiences at 3000ft below the surface of the Earth’s ocean. Thick carbon dioxide rich clouds cover the entirety of the planet and dominate the upper atmosphere and travel at hurricane-force speeds of roughly 224 mph. On the surface though not as blustery you will be welcomed by sulphuric acid rain and over 2000 major volcanos some of which are still active today spewing rivers of lava stretching 3,000 miles in length. Volcanic features on Venus are still being mapped and are in the number of around 100,000!
Venus being the brightest planet is easily spotted with the naked eye. Its brightness is between -3.8 and -4.8 magnitude, bright enough that aided with a telecope you are able to see it go through phases just like the moon. Venus orbit overtakes Earth every 584 days and in doing do changes from the “Evening Star”, visible after sunset, to the “Morning Star”, visible before sunrise. The United States, former Soviet Union and European Space Agencies have all deployed various spacecraft to Venus. In fact more than 40 spacecraft have been sent so far. The Soviet Union’s Venera 7 was the first spacecraft in history to land on another planet, and Venera 9 returned the first photographs of the Venusian surface. However due to the hellish environment probes on the surface do not last long, Venera 7 only survived about 2 hours! NASA’s Magellan orbiter, created maps the first of the planet’s surface. Due to the thick and constant cloud cover radar was uses and the orbitor managed to generate mapping of 98% of the surface in exquisite detail.
I was always fascinated with Venus, It was always the planet I could pick out of the nights sky but when I discovered just how violent and hellish Venus actually was I wanted to know more! The volcanic surface and the intense pressure and heat everything that I have discovered has been so interesting! I have touched on the things that I found interesting and could explain while trying to keeping it interesting and in laymen’s terms. Below are a few links to the sites I gathered my information on but I would like to advise you to check out www.astronomycast.com and www.universetoday.com Photo Credit: SSV, MIPL, Magellan Team, NASA, Planetary Photojournal