A Detailed Overview on Venus : The hottest planet

VENUS

Venus is the second closest planet from the Sun in the Solar system. The planet has derived its name from the Roman goddess of beauty and love. After the moon, Venus is the brightest natural object in the night sky. The planet can be seen by the naked eye in broad daylight sometimes as it can cast shadows. Its orbit falls within the Earth’s orbit, and hence, it always appears near the Sun, either rising in the East a moment before dawn or setting in the West just after dusk. 

It takes 224.7 Earth days for the planet to orbit around the Sun. The planet takes a much longer time to rotate around its axis than any other planet in the Solar system. It has a rotation period of 243 Earth days. Venus and Uranus are the only planets that rotate in the opposite direction i.e., in these planets the Sun sets in the East and rises in the West. Like Mercury, Venus also lacks moons and rings. 

Quick Facts

Rotation time-period243 Earth Days
Revolution time-period224.7 Earth Days
Distance from the Sun108.2 million km
MoonsMercury has no moon.
Gravity8.87 m/s2
Diameter12,104 km
Mass4.867 × 10^24 kg (0.815 M⊕)
RingsNone
Surface Temperature462 °C
Equatorial rotation velocity6.52 km/h (1.81 m/s)

Structure of Venus

NASA (original), User:Vzb83~commonswiki (derivate), Venus structure, CC BY-SA 3.0
NASA (original), User:Vzb83~commonswiki (derivate), Venus structureCC BY-SA 3.0

In terms of structure, Venus is considered to be similar to Earth in many ways. The planet has an iron core that expands around 3,200 kilometers or 2,000 miles in radius. As we move towards the surface from the core, the next layer is a hot rocky mantle slowly churning due to the planet’s extreme interior heat. The planet’s surface is a thin crust of rock and dust that swells and moves as its mantle shifts and creates volcanoes.

Formation

The formation of the planet, Venus happened around 4.5 billion years ago. Gravity pulled together swirling gas and dust for forming this small planet that comes second in terms of proximity to the Sun. Venus is known as the hottest and the brightest planet in our Solar system. Like its parallel terrestrial planets (i.e., Mercury, Earth, and Mars), Venus has a gravelly mantle, central metallic core, and a solid crust.

Surface

venus
Earth image: NASA/Apollo 17 crew Venus image: NASA – The Earth seen from Apollo 17.jpg Venus globe.jpg

When observed from space, the planet appears bright white in colour because it is enveloped with clouds that reflect and scatter sunlight. The planet’s surface is covered with rocks of different shades of grey, similar to rocks on Earth, but the thick atmosphere of the planet filters the sunlight such that everything would appear orange-red if you were standing on the planet’s surface.

Venus has an uneven terrain comprising of depressions, mountains, craters, valleys, and tens of thousands of active and dormant volcanoes. The highest mountain on the planet with a height of 20,000 feet high or 8.8 kilometers is Maxwell Montes, comparable to Mount Everest (the highest mountain on Earth). The surface landscape is rocky, dusty, and surface temperatures reach as high as 471 degrees Celsius or 880 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to astronomers, Venus was entirely resurfaced by intense volcanic activities that occurred around 300 to 500 million years ago. At present, Venus has two huge highland areas; Ishtar Terra (a highland area about the size of Australia) in the north polar region of the planet and Aphrodite Terra (a highland area about the size of South America) spanning the equator and expanding for almost 10,000 kilometers or 6,000 miles.

The planet’s surface is covered in craters that range across 0.9 to 1.2 miles or 1.5 to 2 kilometers. These craters are formed by large meteoroids that reach the surface and produce impact craters after the small meteors burn up in the dense atmosphere.

The majority of Venus’ surface features are named after famous and remarkable Earth women — both real and mythological as the planet derives its name from the goddess of beauty. Some examples of such features is a volcanic crater named Sacajawea (after the Native American woman of the same name who directed Lewis and Clark’s exploration). A deep canyon is named Diana (after the Roman goddess of the hunt).

Atmosphere

The thick atmosphere of the planet is made up of mainly carbon dioxide, along with clouds of sulphuric acid droplets. The thick atmosphere (comprising of greenhouse gases) is responsible for trapping the Sun’s heat, causing the surface temperatures to reach higher than 470 degrees Celsius or 880 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet’s atmosphere is layered with each layer having a different temperature depending on its gaseous composition. The level of the clouds, about 30 miles up from the surface, has a temperature comparable to that of the surface of the Earth.

On the surface of the planet, the sky would appear to be hazy and the atmospheric pressure would be high. This is due to the dense gases present in the planet’s atmosphere.

Magnetosphere

Venus’ magnetic field is much weaker than the Earth’s because of its slow rotation.

Potential for Life

Venus’ environment is not considered to be suitable for supporting any known form of life. The extreme temperature levels, meteoroid strikes, and direct exposure to solar radiations make Venus unfavorable for living organisms. Spacecrafts sent to the planet start overheating in a short time. However, some speculations suggest that in the distant past when the temperatures and atmosphere were less extreme, there may have been living on the planet.

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About Sanchari Chakraborty

I am an eager learner, currently invested in the field of Applied Optics and Photonics. I am also an active member of SPIE (International society for optics and photonics) and OSI(Optical Society of India). My articles are aimed towards bringing quality science research topics to light in a simple yet informative way. Science has been evolving since time immemorial. So, I try my bit to tap into the evolution and present it to the readers.

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