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Physical Orbital Atmosphere
physical characteristics
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Surface
Inner Core
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Cloud cover

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 thick atmosphere 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 and 9 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.
Roman goddess Venus

Most features on Venus are named after famous or mythological women.

Transit of Venus icon

The transits of Venus, when the planet passes in front of the solar disk are one of the rarest events in the Solar System. They happen in pairs 8 years apart, followed by about hundred year gap (121.5 or 105.5 years). This pattern repeats every 243 years. The last transits were in 2004 and 2012. The next set of pairs will not occur again until 2117 and 2125.

radar icon

Radar observations are the best way to map the landscape of Venus for two main reasons. First, we can't directly see the surface through the dense atmosphere and thick clouds. Second, the extremely high temperature and pressure makes it difficult for spacecrafts and rovers to survive for long periods of time. So, radar mapping is the best method to study the surface without interacting with Venus's hostile environment.

Ishtar Terra

A large, highland region on the planet Venus, located near the north pole.
The image above shows a portion of the region, with Maxwell Montes shown in red. The image was generated from radar data gathered by Pioneer Venus Orbiter.

Aphrodite Terra

A highland area on the planet Venus, marked by numerous fractures and lava flows and located near the planet's equator.
The computer-generated topography image above shows the Latona Corona and Dali Chasma on Aprodite Terra.

Maxwell Montes

A mountain on the planet Venus located on Ishtar Terra. At a height of 11 kilometers, it is the highest peak on the planet.

Tectonic activity

The earthquakes and formation of mountains, volcanoes and continents that happen as a result of the motion of tectonic plates in relation to one another.

meteorite

A meteor that survives passage through the atmosphere and crashes into Earth.

atmosphere

The gaseous material surrounding planets; the air surrounding Earth.

atmosphere

The gaseous material surrounding planets; the air surrounding Earth.

Primordial

From the beginning, original, earliest, prehistoric.

carbon dioxide

CO2
A colorless gas consisting of one carbon atom bound to two oxygen atoms.

Nitrogen

A colorless and odorless gas, and one of the most abundant elements in Earth's atmosphere, and the seventh most abundant element in the Universe.
Nitrogen is a byproduct of the fusion process that occurs in stars.

Sulfuric acid

H2SO4
A highly corrosive, colorless mineral acid.

Mariner 2

Launched on August 1962 by NASA, and a replacement for the destroyed Mariner 1, Mariner 2 became the first spacecraft to fly by another planet when it flew past Venus four months later.

Venera 7

Launched in 1970 by the USSR, Venera 7 was the first mission to land a capsule on another planet, when it parachuted a landing capsule on the planet Venus.

Venera 9

Launched on June 1975, the Soviet Venera 9 succeeded in landing another capsule on the surface of Venus, which sent back photos of the planet's surface.

Venera 9

Launched on June 1975, the Soviet Venera 9 succeeded in landing another capsule on the surface of Venus, which sent back photos of the planet's surface.

Venera 9

Launched on June 1975, the Soviet Venera 9 succeeded in landing another capsule on the surface of Venus, which sent back photos of the planet's surface.

Venera 9

Launched on June 1975, the Soviet Venera 9 succeeded in landing another capsule on the surface of Venus, which sent back photos of the planet's surface.

Magellan

Launched on May, 1989, Magellan was designed by NASA to map the surface of Venus.

ESA

The European Space Agency, founded in 1975 and headquartered in Paris, France.

Venus Express

A project of the ESA and launched on November 2005, Venus Express has been orbiting the planet Venus and sending back data since 2006.

Runaway greenhouse effect

A condition in which water vapor raises environmental temperatures, which in turn causes more water evaporation and continues the cycle.