Venus, the second planet from the sun, is known after the Roman goddess of affection and sweetness and is the only planet named after a female. Venus is supposedly named after the foremost beautiful deity of the pantheon because it shone the brightest among the five planets known to ancient astronomers.

In previous days, Venus was often thought to be two different stars– the Vesper and the Phosphorus– those that first appeared at sunset and sunrise. In Latin, they were respectively called Vesper and Lucifer. In Christianity, Lucifer, or “light-bringer,” became referred to as the name of Satan after his fall. However, after further observation of Venus around that time, it shows a hellish environment. This makes Venus a really difficult planet to look at from up close because spacecrafts don’t survive long on its surface.

What is Venus like?

Venus and Earth are often called twins as they’re similar in size, mass, density and amount of gravitational forces. Venus is truly only a bit smaller than our home planet, with a mass of about 80% of Earth’s. 

Venus is 2nd closest planet to sun

The internal surface of Venus is formed of a metallic iron core that’s roughly 2,400 miles (6,000 km) wide. Venus’  mantle, composed of molten rocks, is roughly 1,200 miles (3,000 km) thick. Its crust is predominantly made up of basalt and is estimated to be 6 to 12 miles (10 – 20 km) thick, on average.

Venus is the hottest planet within the system. Although Venus isn’t the closest to the sun, its dense atmosphere traps heat in an exceeding runaway version of the atmospheric phenomenon that warms Earth known as the greenhouse effect. As a result, temperatures on Venus may reach up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), which is quite hot enough to melt lead. Spacecrafts have survived only some hours after landing on the planet before being destroyed.

With scorching temperatures, Venus also features a hellish atmosphere that consists mainly of dioxide with clouds of acid and only trace amounts of water. Its atmosphere is heavier than that of the other planet, resulting in a surface pressure that’s over 90 times that of Earth, the pressure that exists 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) deep within the ocean. 

Incredibly, however, is that early in Venus’ history, the earth may have been habitable, in line with models from researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and other studies. 

Venus’s surface is extremely dry. During the planet’s evolution, the UV rays from the sun evaporated water very quickly, keeping the planet in an exceedingly longer molten state. There’s no liquid water on its surface today as a result of the scorching heat created due to its ozone-filled atmosphere which would cause water to instantly boil away.

 A closer view of Venus

Roughly two-thirds of the Venusian surface is made up of flat, smooth plains that are inhabited by thousands of volcanoes, several of which are still active today, starting from about 0.8 km to 240 km wide, with lava flows carving long, winding canals that are up to over 5,000 km long.

Six mountainous regions structure about one-third of the Venusian surface. One chain of mountains, known as Maxwell, is about 870 km long and is about 11.3 km high, making it the very best feature on the planet.

Venus also possesses a variety of surface features that are unlike anything on Earth. As an example, Venus has coronae, or crowns–ring-like structures–that range from roughly 95 to 1,300 miles (155 to 2100 km) wide. Scientists believe these ring-like structures were formed when hot material beneath the planet’s crust rose, warping the planet’s surface. Venus also has tesserae, or tiles—raised areas within which many ridges and valleys have formed in numerous directions.

With such conditions on Venus, that might be described as infernal, the traditional name for Venus—Lucifer—seems right. However, the name doesn’t carry any fiendish meanings; Lucifer means “light-bringer,” because when seen from Earth, Venus is brighter than the other planets or maybe any star within the night sky due to its highly reflective clouds and its closeness to our planet.

What is Venus’ orbit like?

 Venus takes 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis

Venus takes 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis, which is far and away from the slowest of any of the key planets. And, thanks to this sluggish spin, its metal core cannot generate a flux—kind of like Earth’s. The flux of Venus is 0.000015 times that of Earth’s force field.

If viewed from above, Venus rotates on its axis in a direction that is the opposite of most planets. This means that on Venus, the sun would seem to rise in the west and set in the east while on Earth, the sun looks to be rising in the east and set in the west.

The Venusian year, or simply, the time it takes to orbit the sun— is about 225 Earth days long. Normally, that may mean that days on Venus would be longer than years. However, due to Venus’ curious retrograde rotation, the time from one sunrise to the subsequent is just about 117 Earth days long. The last time we saw Venus transit before the sun was in 2012, and also the next time is in 2117. 

Here are several Venus’ orbit parameters, per NASA:

  • Average distance from the sun is about 67,237,910 miles (108,208,930 km). By comparison that is 0.723 times that of Earth.
  • Perihelion (closest approach to sun) is about 66,782,000 miles (107,476,000 km). By comparison that is 0.730 times that of Earth.
  • Aphelion (farthest distance from sun) is about 67,693,000 miles (108,942,000 km). By comparison that is 0.716 times that of Earth.
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