At first glance Venus, the second planet in the Solar system, looks like Earth's twin.
It is almost the same size and is covered with a thick atmosphere.
Surprisingly, under bluish-white clouds exists a cruel world, which ironically carries the name of the Roman goddess of love and beauty.
With powerful lighting, scorching temperatures and sulfuric acid rain, Venus is no fair goddess.
Venus has an almost circular orbit around the Sun and from Earth it can be observed as the morning or evening "star".
It is the brightest object in the sky after Sun and Moon.
The planet turns clockwise, from east to west, unlike the other planets in the Solar System.
It also rotates so slowly that the day is longer than the year, which is probably why there is no magnetic field.
Similar to Mercury, Venus has no moons. Keep reading to learn more about planet's surface, atmosphere and exploration.
Could you imagine the Earth without water?
It would be quite similar to the dead landscape of Venus with gentle curved plains, depressions, highland regions and mountains.
The highland regions Ishtar Terra
and Aphrodite Terra
are similar to continents.
The highest peak is Maxwell Montes
, rising about 11 km above the main planetary surface.
Although, the surface of the planet is covered with thousands of volcanoes and is surrounded with huge lava flows,
there is no strong evidence for currently volcanic activity.
The landscape shows ridges and wrinkles that might be the result of tectonic activity
, similar to earthquakes.
Venus also has some unique features like volcanoes that resemble pancake domes.
All the impact craters are relatively large, because small meteorites
burn in the
and never reach the surface.
The thick Venusian atmosphere
creates enormous pressure at the surface.
This pressure is 92 times larger than the Earth's at sea level and it is approximately same as if you were about 1 kilometer under the ocean surface.
The chemical composition is similar to that of primordial
Earth: mainly carbon dioxide
with less than 4% nitrogen
, water vapor and other chemicals.
The higher electrically charged clouds consist of small droplets of sulfuric acid
This creates the formation of powerful lightning. The strong winds blowing at high height gradually slow down at the surface.
Just a half a century ago, Venus was still keeping its secrets under its dense clouds.
In 1962, Mariner 2
first reached the planet, followed by twenty other spacecrafts so far.
Soviet Venera 7
landed on the surface and transmitted the first landscape pictures.
The first orbiter, Magellan
, explored over 98% of the Venusian surface and created detailed maps using radar.
Recently, the ESA's Venus Express
, launched in 2006, focused on the exploration of the Venusian atmosphere.
Temperatures on the surface of Venus can reach 900 F. At this temperature certain metals will melt.
The main reason for this is the so called runaway greenhouse effect
. The Sun's radiation passes through the clouds and warms the surface.
Part of the heat is emitted back again.
Normally it would escape back into space; however the thick atmosphere traps the heat, insulating the planet.
If people continue to contaminate the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other pollution, our planet might end-up sharing a similar fate.
However, this fragile equilibrium could easily be destroyed by human activities.
Global temperatures have increased about one degree during the last century and will rise
another 3 to 9 degrees by the end of this century if we continue to contaminate the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other chemicals.
This will cause the level of the world oceans to rise changing the ocean currents.
Such a global change could cause flooding, disease, fire, and even extinction of many species.
We must reduce our consumption now and support efforts to stop global warming before it is too late and the changes are irreversible.