The Planet Venus
Venus, the easiest planet to see with the naked eye, is the second closest planet to the Sun. Venus orbits the Sun every 224 Earth days but rotates every 243 Earth days. Venus is one of the two planets that has no moon.
Read on to learn more about this beautiful rocky planet.
Photo of Venus in real color courtesy of Image processing by R. Nunes. Check out his Ricardo Nunes Astronomy Page.
Some basic Venusian facts
Venus is the second-closest planet to the Sun and is the brightest of the planets. Because of this brightness and its position in the sky, it is sometimes referred to as the morning star and evening star. It takes 224 Earth days to orbit the Sun and is only 403 miles (650 km) smaller than the Earth in diameter. It also has a retrograde rotation, unlike most other planets. The orbit of Venus is also the most circular, while the other planets have an elliptical orbit. Venus is covered in clouds of acid, Sulfuric Acid to be exact, and has a very dense atmosphere, which makes it impossible to see its surface from space. Due to its lack of tectonic plates, Venus also has no magnetic field. Venus is also covered with rocks, so if you have a moon rock, that's great, but try getting one from Venus!
The photo is a false color image (shown if seen by the human eye) of Venus taken by Marinar 10
What's going on inside Venus?
Even though Venus is relatively close to Earth, not much is known about it's interior. Scientists hypothesize that because Venus and Earth are about the same size, they may also be the same in composition. Scientists believe Venus may have a core, mantle and crust, with the core being composed of at least some liquid.
Earth's plate tectonics are responsible for its magnetic field, however; Venus doesn't have these plate tectonics, and therefore it retains much of its heat and does not generate a magnetic field, which was confirmed by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter.
The surface of Venus
The surface of Venus is old, considerably older than that of our Earth. Scientists believe the crust of the Earth is about 100 million years old, but the crust of Venus is near 500 million years old. Venus is covered with volcanoes and it is speculated that some of these volcanoes are still active. Russian space probes detected lightning on Venus, and also recorded a noise akin to a thunder clap. It is believed that the lightning is generated by the spewing ash of a volcanic eruption.
Venus has two large land masses called the Ishtar Terra and the Aphrodite Terra. Both of these highland areas are named after mythological goddesses of love, but I wouldn't recommend taking a romantic trip to Venus any time soon, since you would burn in the Venusian heat before you got there. It would give a whole new meaning to a hot romance, though.
Besides the volcanic formations, Venus also has mountains on its surface with Maxwell Montes being the highest of all. There are spiderweb-like fractures on the surface along with some that have a star-like pattern. As with all planets, Venus has its share of impact craters as well. The strange thing about the impact craters is that many of them haven't eroded over time. Since Venus doesn't have plate tectonics, the craters stay in the same condition until the interior of Venus heats up to such temperatures that it weakens the crust, and this takes millions of years, so the craters keep their form until this happens. Many of the craters on Venus are very large because the smaller ones either burn up before impact, or are so slowed by the dense atmosphere that they don't make much of an impact.
Mountains, Craters and Volcanoes
Venus is relatively flat, especially when compared to other bodies in the solar system, but it does have it's fair share of mountains. Namely, : Maxwell Montes, Akna Montes, and Freya Montes. They aren't the tallest amongst planet mountains, but they do warrant mention.
Compared to other celestial bodies, Venus has few craters, and even fewer large ones. As stated before, many of them can't make it through the dense atmosphere intact, so if some do get through, they don't make much of a crater. Scientists use the number of craters to try to gauge the age of a planet, and Venus isn't helping them out on that account.
Another surface feature on Venus is its Volcanoes, and the lava grooves and plains they've imprinted. The surface of Venus is covered with Volcanoes of all sizes. Some have formed distinct features called a Corona, a crown-like structure which is believed to be unique to Venus, except for Miranda, a moon of Uranus . These Coronae can be over 150 miles across and hundreds of feet high. Scientist believe they are formed by hot material rising to the surface and breaking through the crust. A mound is formed and then collapses, leaving the crown shape.
Another type of common volcano on this planet are the numerous 'pancake' looking ones which are believed to be formed by the lava erupting from beneath the crust, but subjected to the high atmospheric pressure of Venus.
Material from the interior of Venus is also responsible for the land features called novae and arachnoids. The nova are caused by magma forming grooves on the surface. It isn't entirely known how the spider web like fractures on the surface known as arachnoids, which is shown in the image to the left, are formed.
Venus is also home to many channels and valleys. The longest is called Baltis Vallis, and is 4,200 miles (6,800 km) long.
Perfect for the space enthusiast!
Some light-hearted fun...a Planet Heroes action figure, for when you feel like being a super hero.