Planet Venus Facts
Image of the planet taken by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter in 1979.
- Venus is the second planet from the sun and very similar in size to the Earth, its diameter is only 400 miles (644 km) smaller than Earth.
- At its closest point to Earth the planet is a mere 24 million miles away (38 million km).
- Venus orbits the sun at an average distance of 67 million miles (108 million km).
- The planet orbits around the sun every 225 days but rotates on its own axis slower than any other planet, taking 243 days compared to 24 hours on Earth, meaning a day on Venus is longer than its year!
- Venus is surrounded by extremely thick cloud making it impossible to see the surface from orbit without radar or radio equipment.
- The force of gravity on Venus is only 12% less than we have on Earth but the extreme weight of atmospheric pressure would crush a human.
- Venus rotates on its axis in the opposite direction to the other planets of the solar system.
- Apart from the moon Venus is the brightest object in the night sky.
- Venus was the first planet to be observed by a passing spacecraft.
An image captured from the Venusian surface, taken by a Russian probe in 1982.
Venus SurfaceMost of the Venusian surface is covered by flat plains but it also has mountains, canyons and valleys. There are thousands of volcanoes on Venus, some up to 150 miles (240 km) in diameter and evidence strongly suggests that volcanic activity is stll ongoing on the planet. Venus also has huge ring-like structures called coronae dotted across its surface, these are lava domes that have flattened out over time. One of the strangest aspects of the surface of Venus is the lack of very many craters, meaning that the geology of the planet is relatively young. It is thought that every few hundred million years Venus undergoes massive global resurfacing, in essence the entire surface turns into molten lava then cools creating a new crust.
Venus AtmosphereThe atmosphere of Venus is over 90 times heavier than that of Earth producing crushing surface pressure, it consists mainly of carbon dioxide with small amounts of nitrogen and water vapor. Lightning occurs in the upper atmosphere along with clouds of sulfur dioxide which produce sulfuric acid rain.
Venus TemperatureExtremely hot! The temperature at the uppermost clouds of Venus average about 13C (55F) however the surface temperature is a baking 465C (870F), the hottest surface of any planet in the solar system.
MoonsVenus has no moons.
Life on VenusDue to the extreme heat it is highly unlikely any lifeforms could exist on the surface, airborne life forms could exist in temperate high clouds.
Origin of NameThe planet was named by the Romans after the Goddess of Love.
Venus, Earth's Twin?
Artist's impression of the surface of Venus.
The atmospheres of both worlds are very different, Earth’s is thin and nitrogen based whereas the atmosphere on Venus is extremely thick and composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide. Ninety percent of Earth’s atmosphere is within just 6 miles (10 km) of its surface, on Venus it would be 30 miles (50 km) from its surface before reaching 90% of its atmosphere. As a result atmospheric pressure on Venus is a massive 90 times stronger than on Earth, this is the same pressure you would feel if you were a kilometer under the ocean, although you wouldn't feel it for very long as you would be instantly crushed. Perhaps the biggest difference is the intense heat, surface temperatures can reach an incredible 465C (870F) which is hot enough to melt lead. So where did it all go wrong for our twin planet? Well unfortunately it was just too close to the sun. The water it once had flowing across its surface quickly evaporated and without the cleansing effect of rain huge amounts of carbon dioxide built up in its atmosphere from intense volcanic activity. This created a runaway greenhouse effect, our twin reached the point of no return ending up with the hottest surface temperature of any planet in the solar system.
A radar image of Venus captured by NASA's Magellan spacecraft.
Planet Venus StatisticsDiameter: 7,521 miles (12,104 km)
Average Distance from Sun: 67 million miles (108 million km)
Orbital Period: 225 days
Rotation Period: 243 days
Maximum Surface Temperatures: 465C (870F)
Minimum Surface Temperatures: same as maximum
Gravity: 8.87 m/s2 (91% Earth's Gravity)
Density: 5.24 g/cm3 (95% Earth's Density)
Mass: 4.8685 x 1024 kg (81.5% Earth's Mass)
Volume: 9.284 x 1011 km3 (88% Earth's Volume)
Atmosphere: 96% Carbon dioxide, 3.5% Nitrogen, 0.015% Sulfur dioxide, 0.007% Argon, 0.002% Water vapor, 0.001 7% Carbon monoxide, 0.001 2% Helium,
0.000 7% Neon.