Let’s Explore Venus!

Far away, 261 million kilometers away from Earth, sits our other next-door neighbor besides Mars, Venus. From its many volcanoes, hot temperatures, and its peculiar backward spin, Venus is one planet we don’t hear much about recently but that doesn’t mean we don’t know about it. Strap on and put on some sunscreen because we are traveling 66,898,970 miles away from the Sun, to Venus!

Computer Simulated Global View of Venus

Computer Simulated Global View of Venus. Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech

Venus is a rocky planet. Its surface is covered with mountains, valleys, tens of thousands of erupting volcanoes and large craters. This is because due to Venus’ dense atmosphere, most small meteoroids burn up and only large meteoroids reach the surface creating large impact craters.

Venus’ Atmosphere

Venus atmosphere consists of mostly carbon dioxide with thick clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. The winds blow at hurricane force, clouds take five days to go completely around the planet. If you were in standing on the surface of Venus it would look very hazy. Its thick cloud coverage is the reason why we are able to easily see Venus from Earth. The clouds reflect the Sun’s light making it easily spotted as one of the first starts during sunset and the last one to disappear during sunrise.
Venus is so close to the Sun that its temperature averages 900 degrees Fahrenheit (465 Celsius) -enough to melt lead! Its thick atmosphere creates a greenhouse effect making it the hottest planet in our solar system -even more than Mercury, which is closer to the Sun.

A real-color image of Venus

A real-color image of Venus taken by Mariner 10 processed from two filters. The surface is obscured by thick sulfuric acid clouds.

Hemispheric View of Venus

A mosaic of the Magellan images (most with illumination from the west) forms the image base. The composite image was processed to improve contrast and to emphasize small features and was color-coded to represent elevation. Source: NASA/JPL/USGS Published: June 4, 1998

Compared to Earth, Venus is…

Venus is around the same size as Earth; Venus has a radius of 3,760 miles (6,052 kilometers) and Earth has a radius of 3,959 miles (6,371 kilometers). Venus is the only planet whos day is longer than its year. One year in Venus consists of 225 Earth days and one day consists of 243 Earth days. What makes Venus more strange is that it’s one of two planets that rotates clockwise on its axis; also known as retrograde or backward rotation, the other planet being Uranus. This is because the planet is upside-down, 177.3 degrees to be exact, meaning the top of venus is the South Pole and the bottom is Venus’ Noth Pole.

Planets in our Solar System: Orbital period, Rotation period and Axial tilt

Planets in our Solar System: Orbital period, Rotation period and Axial tilt

Visitors from Earth

Venus has no moon and no rings but, it’s had many visitors from Earth. More than 40 spacecraft from several nations have explored the planet.

  • Soviet Union’s, Venera series, made the first landings on Venus’ surface.
Venera 13 on Venus image of Venus

Venera 13 on Venus image of Venus

  • From 1990 to 1994, NASA’s Magellan mission used radar to map 98 percent of the planet’s surface.
  • The European Space agency launched Venus Express in 2005 reaching the planet in 2006. The orbiter studied the planet’s atmosphere and surface through 2014.
  • Currently, Japan’s Akatsuki (Dawn) is studying Venus from orbit. Akatsuki was launched in 2010 and its Japan’s first mission to explore Venus.

Resources for Educators

  1. Solar System Exploration: Venus.
  2. Kid-Friendly Venus
  3. More CrashCourse Videos!
  4. Read the latest news about Venus on nasa.org