Jack C. Davis Observatory

Planetary Walkway: Venus

To Virgie - You are my Venus.
From your loving husband,

Bill Miller

Named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus is very similar in size, mass, and…
Named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, Venus is very similar in size, mass, and composition to Earth. But the similarities end there, as Venus has no oceans, and its scorching temperatures of about 484C could melt lead.

Venus is the third brightest object in the sky just behind the Sun and the Moon. Venus is always covered with thick layers of clouds that reflect approximately 70 % of the light it receives from the Sun back out into space. Venus is often referred to as Earth's sister planet because it is our nearest planetary neighbor. It is just under the distance the Earth is from the Sun (0.73 A.U.) and maintains an average surface temperature of 730 K (815F). Venus has the hottest natural temperatures of all the other planets in the Solar System even though Mercury is nearest to the Sun. Venus has an enormous runaway greenhouse effect produced by a 96.5% carbon dioxide atmosphere and along with other greenhouse gases efficiently traps heat near its surface.

Venus has no oceans or surface water, yet scientists think a few billion years ago it was Earth like, but something happened to its surface water. Venus has over 80% of the mass of the Earth and has two continent-sized features, called Ishtar Terra and Aphrodite Terra. Venus has a very slow rotation on its axis at 243 Earth days and rotates in the opposite direction as most of the planets. It is said to have retrograde rotation on its axis. A day on Venus is longer than the planets year of approximately 225 Earth days. Venus still has active volcanoes and its surface features change rapidly with extensive lava flows and high temperatures. The Soviet Venera 9 and 14 space mission took pictures at the surface under the clouds of Venus while America's NASA space satellite, Magellan took radar images through the clouds that revealed many of the surface features we now study.

Quick Facts

  • Mean Distance from Sun: 108.2 million kilometers
  • Orbital Period: 0.62 years
  • Rotational Period: 243 days (retrograde)
Photo Gallery
Venus Images
The northern hemisphere is displayed in this global view of the surface of Venus.    
The northern hemisphere is displayed in this global view of the surface of Venus.    


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