Venus 101 | The Hottest Planet In The Solar System

Named after the ancient Roman goddess of beauty, Venus is known for its exceptional brightness in the night sky. But behind this facade is a world of storms and infernos unlike anywhere else in the solar system.

Venus, the second planet from the sun, is very similar to Earth from a distance. But up close, it's a very different world. Venus is about the same size as Earth, just slightly smaller. It's structure is also nearly identical, with an iron core, a hot mantle, and a rocky crust.

The crust of Venus, however, is dotted with thousands of volcanoes, including Maxwell Montes, a volcano almost as tall as Mount Everest.

Venus also has a thick layered atmosphere. It's full of clouds that rain sulfuric acid, and whip around the planet at speeds up to 224 miles per hour. Faster than some category five hurricanes.

The atmosphere is so thick that it creates a surface pressure similar to what it would be about half a mile deep in the Earth's oceans. This pressure is heavy enough that a human standing on Venus' surface, would be crushed.

The atmosphere is made of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. Which create an extreme case of global warming. They trap the sun's heat, causing surface temperatures to rise over 880 degrees Fahrenheit. Making Venus the hottest planet in the solar system.

Venus is so inhospitable, neither humans nor space craft are able to survive the planet's surface. But some scientists speculate that Venus wasn't always so unwelcoming.

From roughly 2.9 billion to 715 million years ago, global temperatures on Venus may have been just a few degrees cooler than Earth's are today. And scientists theorize that the surface may have contained shallow oceans that could have held enough water to support life.

Why are there no moons on Venus? Most likely because they are too close to the Sun. Any moon with too great a distance from these planets would be in an unstable orbit and be captured by the Sun. If they were too close to these planets they would be destroyed by tidal gravitational forces. (NASA)

Today, life may still exist in Venus' atmosphere. About 30 miles up in Venus' clouds, where the temperature and surface pressure are similar to those on the surface of Earth, scientists have observed strange dark streaks that appear to be absorbing ultraviolet radiation. A phenomenon that could be evidence of microbial life.

Life may struggle to survive in the atmosphere of Venus, but it is this unforgiving environment that's made Venus an icon of beauty. It reflects 70% of all the sunlight that reaches the planet, which is why Venus shines more brightly than any other planet or star in the night sky.

Venus was the first planet to ever be reached by a space probe. In 1962, Mariner 2 flew within 34,400 kilometers of the surface of Venus and transmitted to Earth information about its temperature and details about its atmosphere and rotational period. On December 15, 1970 an unmanned Soviet spacecraft, Venera 7, became the first spacecraft to land on another planet. It measured the temperature of the atmosphere on Venus. In 1972, Venera 8 gathered atmospheric and surface data for 50 minutes after landing. (NASA & Caltech)

While more than 40 unmanned space craft have visited this infernal world, Venus, so illuminated in the darkness of space, still has much to reveal.

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