Top 10 AMAZING Facts About VENUS
All of this galactic travel is tiring, but we’re still saddened to know we are only 2 planets away from completing this journey! For this out of this world installment, we’re visiting Venus – sometimes known as Earth’s Sister Planet. Join us on one of our last planetary escapes for ten great facts about the 2nd rock from the sun!
A Tropical Paradise?
Venus may be a scorching surface of death today, but that may not have always been the case. With a surface temperature as high as it has, it’s logical that water in its liquid form would be impossible to form, but take away the incredible heat and you have what could have been a habitable planet. Scientists like astrobiologist David Grinspoon believe that early Venus was actually home to vast oceans, though others, such as Dima Bolmatov of Cornell University, hypothesize they weren’t as we know them. Due to the high concentration of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, it’s theorized that Venus was covered in a carbon dioxide fluid that eventually evaporated.
A Sad, Moonless Life
While we may feel cheated out of multiple moons, Venus actually doesn’t get to enjoy the company of a glowing natural satellite at night. Since Venus is so similar to Earth, it’s often questioned why it doesn’t have its own moon. It’s believed that Venus, like Earth, suffered a large collision, and since Earth’s moon was formed by such an event, it, too, should have a satellite of its own, but theories point to a possible second collision that removed such a moon from the picture. The concept of a double impact would explain Venus’ unusual rotation, but it would also make possible a change in gravitational relationship where Venus’ moon would move towards the planet, ultimately colliding with it.
Earth’s Sister Planet
Sure, Earth and Venus have their differences, but in hindsight the two have some miraculously similar qualities. The first noticeable resemblance between the two is size, with Venus’ diameter coming in at 7,520 miles or 12,103.6 kilometers, only 405 miles or 653 kilometers smaller than Earth’s. Additionally, Venus also shares rather close numbers when it comes to volume, surface area, and mass, with each ranging between 81% and 90% that of Earth’s properties. Should you dig through the many layers of Venus, you’ll also find it to have a metal core surrounded by silica rock and a thinner crust.
Visiting the 2nd Rock from the Sun
It may be highly unlikely that a human ever gets a chance to touch down on the surface of Venus, but that doesn’t mean our trusty machines can’t make the trip for us. On December 15th, 1970, the Soviet’s sent an unmanned spacecraft, Venera 7, to the surface of Venus after 6 unsuccessful attempts. It was, in fact, a milestone, being the first spacecraft to ever land on a different planet and transmit information back to Earth. Transmissions from Venera 7 on Venus’ surface lasted for approximately 20 minutes before the extreme temperatures and high pressure destroyed it. Since then, another 9 Venera missions had been sent along with over a dozen journeys from NASA and the European Space Agency.
Average Surface Temperature
On top of being incredibly difficult to penetrate, Venus’ atmosphere adds a devilish layer to the multitude of reasons why extended landfall hasn’t been possible. On average, due to the greenhouse effect from the atmospheric composition, the surface temperature of Venus keeps to a steady 462° C or 864° F. Compared to Earth’s average of 16° C or 61° F, it’s an astronomical difference. Due to the incredibly high temperatures, Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, beating out Mercury despite its closest position to the Sun. Essentially, Venus’ atmosphere allows light from the Sun to pass through and heat the surface while simultaneously keeping infrared heat from escaping.
Seeing Through Venus’ Atmosphere
While it’s completely possible to view Venus from the surface of Earth on a completely clear day, the same can’t be said for the reverse. In fact, if standing on the surface of Venus were even possible – and we’ll get to why it’s not in a minute – you wouldn’t be able to see beyond the thick, gaseous atmosphere. The opaque atmosphere is made up of 96.5% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen, and a congregation of other gases, with sulfur dioxide making up a large portion of the trace elements. With an atmospheric pressure 92 times that of Earth, penetrating the thick impervious layer has been borderline impossible for now.
An Unusual Rotation
Here on Earth we’re used to rotating counterclockwise and at a rate that gives us an approximate 24-hour day. Should we ever have to leave our home world for Venus, we would have some adjustments to get used to. One such adjustment being the planet’s rotation, which is both considerably slower and completely backwards. What does that mean, exactly? Well, instead of the Sun rising in the east, you’d get a western sunrise and a day would be the equivalent to about 8 months on Earth. It takes 224.65, 24-hour earth days for Venus to complete an orbit and 243 days to complete a full rotation. Meaning a year on Venus is about the same length as a day on Venus! Imagine adapting to that calendar!
Phosphorus, Hesperus, Lucifer, and Vesper
Prior to being officially dubbed “Venus,” Greeks and Romans had unknowingly turned Venus into two different stars. To the Greeks, Venus was both Phosphorus and Hesperus while the Romans recognized it as Lucifer and Vesper – but neither knew that the alleged two stars they were referencing was actually one body. The source of the confusion that led both civilizations to believe there was a Morning Star and Evening Star was because, as its orbit around the Sun surpasses Earth’s orbit, it goes from being visible only after sunset to only being visible prior to sunrise.
Naming the Bright Planet
Though Venus has been visually observable for as long as mankind can remember, we didn’t always have a name to put to the face. Like many of its planetary brethren, Venus received its most popular moniker via a selection of Roman gods and goddesses. In this case, Venus was named after the Roman Goddess of Love – a counterpart to Greek’s Aphrodite. It wasn’t always known as such, especially to ancient Babylonians, who recognized Venus as the Star of Ishtar, their own goddess of fertility, love, war and sex. The symbol for womanhood has even been adopted as the symbol for this planet of love and strong women.
With the exception of a few planets, the discovery of most of them can be attributed to somebody or somebodies. Venus actually falls in the minority in this case, with its original “discovery” being impossible to pinpoint. Being so bright on a clear night, Venus can be visible to the naked eye, meaning that any ancient civilization could be credited with the first observation. Copernicus, and later Galileo Galilei, are responsible for Venus’ classification as a planet while Mikhail Lomonosov has been credited with initially discovering the planet’s gaseous atmosphere in 1761, a claim later verified in 1790 by astronomer Johann Schroter.