Popular Astronomy

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Amazing fact!

Venus is even weirder than Mercury – Venus’ day is actually longer than its year! A day on Venus is 243 Earth days long, while its year is 224 Earth days.

     Ah, the planet of lurve, named after the Roman Goddess of smooching. Venus can be the brightest planet in the sky, and can even be seen during the daytime if you know where to look. It is so bright partly because it is the closest planet to Earth, and also because it is completely covered by clouds of carbon dioxide that strongly reflect sunlight.

Volcanoes cover the surface of Venus

Image: NASA/JPL/Galaxy

     The clouds are a bit of a problem as they mean we can’t see down to the surface of Venus. Instead we have to use radar to penetrate the clouds, or send down probes to land on the surface. The last probe to do that was the Russian spacecraft Venera 14 in 1982. However, Venus is a hellish planet – hot and with high atmospheric pressures that can crush just about anything. Venera 14 lasted for an hour before breaking under the horrible conditions.

     Some people call Venus, Earth’s evil twin. This is because a long time ago Venus may have looked a little bit like Earth, and maybe even had oceans. However, because it is a little closer to the Sun than Earth, it gradually got hotter and hotter. All its oceans evaporated, and carbon dioxide began to build up in large amounts in Venus’ atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and it caused a so-called ‘runaway greenhouse effect’. On Venus this happened naturally, but on Earth climate change is down to human activities. But Venus is a warning of what could happen to the Earth if we do not look after our environment.