Venus is one of our neighboring planets. Because it is so close to Earth, we see it as the first and brightest star in the evening sky! Much like Mercury, Astronomers of the past used to think that Venus was two separate planets, since it could be seen both in the morning and at night. Where can I find Venus?
Exploration of Venus has proven to be tricky. Venus is covered in a layer of dense clouds. These clouds, unlike clouds on Earth which are made of water vapor, are composed of sulfuric acid! These acidic clouds combined with a dense atmosphere have made it very difficult to see Venus' surface. The clouds surrounding the planet are very cold, around -45 Celcius, but heat trapped at the surface makes the surface temperature over 460 degrees Celcius! Later exploration has shown that the surface of Venus is not very different from the Earth. Venus has rolling hills, mountain ranges, plains, basins, and craters.
Scientists compare the conditions on Venus to the "greenhouse effect" here on Earth. On Venus, as on Earth, the heat gets trapped by a dense layer of carbon dioxide and can't escape to the upper atmosphere. Without escape from the surface, no cooling ocurrs, so on Venus, we call this a "runaway greenhouse effect." Another interesting fact is that Venus has a "retrograde rotation" which means that it rotates in the opposite direction of the Earth.
Click on the planet to visit the Venus Image Gallery.
Fun Venus Facts:
Why can't we live on Venus?
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