Facts About Venus: Explore the Earth's Sister Planet

~8 min

As the brightest planet in the sky, Venus has been known to astronomers since ancient times. In this article, we’ll tell you everything about this fascinating planet — from its discovery history to the color of its surface.

Contents

Venus information

  • Planet type: terrestrial
  • Radius: 6051.8 km (3760.4 miles)
  • Mass: 4.867×10²⁴ kg
  • Aphelion: 108.939 million km (67.691 million miles)
  • Perihelion: 107.476 million km (66.782 million miles)
  • Average distance from the Earth: 261 million km - 40 million km (162 million miles - 25 million miles)
  • Surface temperature: 438 °C to 482 °C (820 °F - 900 °F)
  • Solar day length: 116.75 Earth days
  • Sidereal day length: 243.022 Earth days
  • Year length: 224.701 Earth days
  • Age: 4.503 billion years
  • Named after: the Roman goddess of love and beauty

Who discovered Venus?

As Venus is very bright, it has been observed by ancient astronomers from different civilizations since the dawn of time. Thus, we don’t know for sure who discovered Venus; however, Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei are credited with the classification of Venus as a planet. The latter carried out the first accurate observation of Venus in 1610: Galileo viewed the planet through a telescope and discovered its phases, which are similar to the lunar ones. This discovery proved the Copernican theory that planets orbited the Sun and not vice versa.

Can you see Venus from Earth?

Venus can be easily seen by the naked eye, as it is the second brightest object in the night sky after the Moon. However, as Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, the Sun’s glare outshines the planet most of the time. It becomes visible for terrestrial observers only at certain periods of time. The best time to see Venus is when the planet reaches its greatest elongation or, in other words, the greatest separation from the Sun, as seen from the Earth.

The greatest elongations of Venus take place roughly every 9 months. The greatest western elongation is also called the morning one, as, during this period, Venus shines brightly in the predawn sky — hence the name “morning star”. The greatest eastern elongation is referred to as the evening one, as Venus appears in the sky around sundown.

If you want to make sure that the bright dot you’re looking at is Venus, use an astronomy app like Sky Tonight or Star Walk 2. Simply point your device at the sky, and the app will show you the name of any celestial body.

How many moons does Venus have?

Actually, Venus has no moons at all! Venus and Mercury are the only planets of the Solar System that don’t have any natural satellites orbiting them. Scientists suggest that Venus might once have had a moon formed as a result of a collision. Later, another collision destroyed this satellite.

The main reason Venus doesn’t have any moons is its proximity to the Sun. The strong gravitational influence of the Sun makes it challenging for moons to form and remain in a stable orbit.

How big is Venus?

Venus has a mean radius of 6,052 km (3,760 miles). A trip around the equator of this planet would cover a distance of about 38,025 km (23,627 miles). Unlike many other Solar System planets with an equatorial bulge, Venus is a nearly perfect sphere, so its radius doesn’t differ at the poles and the equator. The equatorial bulge doesn’t form because Venus rotates very slowly around its axis.

Is Venus bigger than Earth?

Venus is slightly smaller than the Earth — its diameter equals about 95% that of our planet. The mass of Venus (4.867×10²⁴ kg) is about 81% that of the Earth.

What color is Venus?

Venus appears white or yellowish-white when viewed through a telescope. The reason is that it’s covered with a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and sulphuric acid clouds.

The planet's cloud cover obscures direct observations, so the color of the Venusian surface is not accurately known. However, based on data collected by spacecraft missions, scientists believe that it likely exhibits various shades of red, brown, and gray.

Venus’ temperature

Venus has an average surface temperature of about 462 °C (864 °F), which makes it one of the hottest places in the Solar System. This incredible heat is primarily a result of Venus’ thick atmosphere, which is composed mainly of carbon dioxide. It creates the greenhouse effect, which traps solar radiation and elevates temperatures to such extreme levels. Additionally, the planet’s proximity to the Sun contributes to its exceptionally high temperatures.

Venus’ orbit and rotation

How long is a day on Venus?

Unlike the Earth, where a day consists of approximately 24 hours, Venus takes a much longer time to complete a single rotation on its axis. A Venusian day lasts about 243 Earth days or 5,832 Earth hours! Just imagine a day stretching on for months and months, with the Sun rising and setting only once during that entire period.

How long is a year on Venus?

While on the Earth we are accustomed to a year consisting of approximately 365 days, Venus dances to a different celestial rhythm. The duration of a Venusian year, or its orbital period around the Sun, is roughly 225 Earth days. Surprisingly, this means that a Venusian year is actually shorter than a Venusian day!

How far away is Venus?

How far is Venus from the Sun?

Venus is the second planet from the Sun; its distance from our star is just over 70% the distance between Earth and the Sun. As Venus’ elliptical orbit is the least eccentric of any of the planets, there is no significant difference between its closest (107.4 million km) and farthest (108.9 million km) points from the Sun. The average distance is 108.2 million km.

How far is Venus from the Earth?

Venus is the closest planet to the Earth, although the distance between the planets constantly varies as they move in their elliptical orbits around the Sun. At its closest approach to the Earth, which happens once every 584 days, the distance between Venus and our planet can be about 40 million km.

How long does it take to get to Venus?

It took NASA’s Mariner 2 (sent to Venus in 1962) and Soviet Union’s Venera 7 (launched in 1970) less than four months to reach the planet.

Missions to Venus

As thick clouds hide the Venusian surface, for a very long time, people believed that Venus was similar to the Earth. This close planet has always been interesting for scientists and astronomers: over 40 spacecraft have explored Venus. Its proximity to our planet will always make Venus a target for future studies and journeys.

What is Venus made of?

Unfortunately, little information is available about the internal structure of Venus.

Formation of Venus

Venus formed together with the other Solar System planets. About 4.5 billion years ago, a giant cloud of interstellar gas and dust collapsed under its own gravity and flattened into a protoplanetary disk. Venus and the other rocky planets formed in the inner part of this disk, while the gas giants settled in the outer regions of the young Solar System.

Venus’ structure

Due to the similarity in size and mass between Venus and the Earth, scientists believe the planets share a similar interior. Venus is likely to have a crust, a rocky mantle, and a liquid core. However, the core might also be solid or even might not exist at all.

Venus’ atmosphere

The gaseous Venusian atmosphere was initially discovered in 1761 by the Russian polymath Mikhail Lomonosov. Observing the transit of Venus across the solar disk, Lomonosov spotted a light ring around the planet’s disk. He correctly assumed that this phenomenon might be caused by the refraction of the Sun’s rays in the thick Venusian atmosphere.

The atmosphere of Venus consists of 96.5% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen, and traces of other gases. Thick clouds composed of sulfuric acid and water vapor cover the planet’s surface and reflect about 70% of the sunlight that reaches Venus: that’s why this planet is so bright.

Upcoming Events 2024

February 18, 2024: Venus near Pluto

On February 18, at 03:31 GMT (February 17, 10:31 p.m. EST), Venus (mag -3.9) will pass 2°42' from Pluto (mag 15.2) in the constellation Capricornus. The objects will be too far apart to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but you can observe them with a pair of binoculars.

February 22, 2024: Venus near Mars

  • Conjunction time: 09:01 GMT (4:01 a.m. EST)
  • Conjunction distance: 0°36'
  • Close approach time: 09:46 GMT
  • Close approach distance: 0°37'

On February 22, Venus (mag -3.9) will meet Mars (mag 1.3) in the constellation Capricornus. The planets will be clearly visible to the naked eye, but you can also observe them closer with a pair of binoculars.

March 8, 2024: Moon near Venus

  • Conjunction time: 17:01 GMT (12:01 p.m. EST)
  • Conjunction distance: 3°12'
  • Close approach time: 18:56 GMT (1:56 p.m. EST)
  • Close approach distance: 3°00'

On March 8, the 7.4%-illuminated Moon will be close to Venus (mag. -3.8). Both objects will be in the constellation Capricornus. Observe them with the naked eye.

March 19, 2024: Venus at aphelion

On March 19, 2024, at 18:30 GMT (2:30 p.m. EDT), Venus will reach the furthest point from the Sun in its orbit — aphelion. The distance between the two objects will be 0.73 AU. Venus has a nearly circular orbit, so its surface receives almost exactly the same amount of energy from the Sun at perihelion and aphelion.

March 21, 2024: Venus near Saturn

  • Close approach time: 22:06 GMT (6:06 p.m. EDT)
  • Close approach distance: 0°18'
  • Conjunction time: March 22, 01:59 GMT (March 21, 9:59 p.m. EDT)
  • Conjunction distance: 0°20'

On March 21, Venus (mag -3.8) will meet Saturn (mag 1.1) in the constellation Aquarius. The planets will be clearly visible to the naked eye, but you can also observe them closer with a telescope or a pair of binoculars.

Fun facts about Venus

Here are a few mind-blowing facts about the planet Venus.

  • Venus is the hottest planet in all of the Solar System.
  • Venus has rains of sulfuric acid that never reach the surface.
  • Venus spins on its axis in the opposite direction compared to most other planets.
  • In the Venusian atmosphere, winds blow at incredibly high speeds — up to 300 km/h (186 mph).
  • Venus has no moons or rings.
  • Venus has the longest day of any planet in the Solar System — it lasts about 243 Earth days.
  • A Venusian year (which is around 225 Earth days) is shorter than a Venusian day.
  • The atmospheric pressure on Venus is about 92 times greater than on the Earth. It is equivalent to the pressure experienced at depths of approximately 1 km (0.62 miles) in the Earth's oceans.
  • Multiple spacecraft have successfully landed on Venus, but their operational lifetimes were very short due to the harsh conditions on the planet's surface.

Take our fun and educational quiz about Venus to learn more interesting facts and test your knowledge about this fascinating planet!

3D image of Venus
Is it true that a day on Venus lasts longer than a year? Why is Venus the brightest and hottest planet in the Solar System? Learn interesting facts about our close neighbour!
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F.A.Q.

How hot is Venus?

The thick Venusian atmosphere trapping heat causes surface temperatures higher than 470 °C (878 °F). That is the reason why Venus is hotter than Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun.

Does Venus have a surface?

Yes, Venus has a solid surface beneath its dense atmosphere. The surface of Venus is made up of rocky materials similar to those found on the Earth. It is covered with volcanoes, mountains, expansive plains and vast plateaus.

How old is Venus?

Like other celestial bodies in the Solar System, Venus formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago during the early stages of the Solar System's evolution. It originated from the accretion and collision of numerous protoplanets and planetesimals. As these objects came together, their gravitational interactions led to the gradual formation of the planet Venus.

Is Venus the morning star?

It’s interesting that ancient sky gazers took Venus for two separate sky objects: the Morning Star and the Evening Star (or Phosphorus and Hesperus to the Greeks and Lucifer and Vesper to the Romans).

We hope that you enjoyed reading this article and learned something new about Venus from it. Please share it with your friends on social media and let us know if you’d like to learn more about other sky objects! And watch our educational cartoon with fun facts about Venus.

Bottom line

Venus is sometimes called the Earth’s “sister planet” because of its similar size, mass, and structure. However, the two planets are very different in many other respects. Venus is extremely hot, is enveloped by thick clouds of sulfuric acid, and has a slow and retrograde rotation. It’s a much less hospitable but still very intriguing world!

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