Meet Our Wicked Sister
1. Venus is often referred to as our sister planet because of its similarity to Earth.
Its mass is roughly 80% that of our planet and just a little smaller in size. It’s about 0.75 AU (astronomical unit = 93 million miles) away from the Sun.
2. Despite being Earth’s twin, you wouldn’t want to live there.
Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system even though it is actually the second closest planet to the Sun. It has an incredibly dense atmosphere which creates an extreme version of the greenhouse effect we see on Earth. As a result of this, temperatures on Venus reach 870 degrees Fahrenheit (465 degrees Celsius).
3. It has a very slow rotation.
This creates, by far, the weirdest fact about Venus and that is that a day lasts longer than a year. Due to this painfully slow axial rotation, a day on Venus lasts 243 Earth days. By comparison, it only takes the planet 225 Earth days to do a full orbit around the Sun.
4. It’s full of volcanoes.
If you want to visit the planet someday, you better like volcanoes. This is because there are more volcanoes on the surface of Venus than on any other planet. So far we discovered over 1,600 and these are just the big ones.
5. We actually thought Venus was pretty nice.
Due to its thick atmosphere, at first we really had no idea what it was really like on Venus. Some speculated that it could have oceans, a nice tropical climate and even life. It wasn’t until we sent the first spacecrafts that were able to peer through the thick clouds that we found out exactly how hellish the surface of Venus truly was. To give you an idea, rovers on Mars can remain operational for months on end. The only lander we sent to Venus remained operational for just two hours.
6. The planet is pretty smooth.
There is a positive side to having such a thick atmosphere and that is protection from meteorites. If you look at Mercury and Mars, there two have been constantly bombarded by objects falling out of the sky and are full of craters. They also have little to no atmosphere. Venus, on the other hand, doesn’t really have this problem. A meteorite needs to be very large in order to make it through the atmosphere and reach the surface. Furthermore, all of that volcanic activity is constantly reshaping the crust of the planet.
7. It has no moons.
Venus and Mercury are the only planets in our solar system with no moons. Granted, it’s pretty hard for a small, rocky planet to maintain a satellite in its orbit. We only have one (which you can learn about here) and Mars has two teeny, tiny moons called Phobos and Deimos.
8. It’s been discovered 3600 years ago.
From an astronomical standpoint, mankind has always been fascinated with our neighbor. Its close proximity to Earth means that it is the second brightest object in the night sky after our Moon. As a result of this, we’ve known about it for a very long time. The Babylonians are the first with a written mention of Venus, way back in the 17th century BC.
9. It has extreme air pressure.
As if living on Venus wouldn’t be hostile enough, you would also have to deal with pressures about 90 times higher than Earth. To give you a sense of how this would feel, just walking along its surface would feel like you are somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.
10. It has retrograde rotation.
What this means is that it rotates opposite the direction of the star it orbits (in this case, the Sun). It also rotates the opposite way compared to us which means that on Venus the Sun rises in the West. This is pretty rare – out of all the planets, Venus and Uranus are the only ones with retrograde rotation. Moreover, we are not entirely sure what causes this. Some theories suggest that the planet actually spins normally but that it flipped 180 degrees on its axis at some point while others suggest that Venus will eventually slow down, stop and begin rotating in the opposite direction.
Want more facts about our Solar System? Here you go: