Discover the Amazing Planet Venus

~6 min
Discover the Amazing Planet Venus

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

Contents

You can take our fun and an educational quiz about Venus to test your knowledge about this planet.

How long is a day on Venus? Why is Venus hotter than Mercury? Take this quiz and test your knowledge about this mysterious planet that is both very like and very unlike the Earth.
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Venus Facts

  • Planet type: terrestrial
  • Radius: 6051.8 km (3760.4 miles)
  • Mass: 4.867×10^24 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

When was Venus discovered?

The exact date of Venus’ discovery is unknown; as this bright planet can be easily seen with the unaided eye, it was 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.

How big is Venus?

Is Venus bigger than the Earth?

With a diameter of 12,104 km (7,521 miles), this second closest planet to the Sun is slightly smaller than the Earth. Also, the mass of Venus is about 81% that of our planet.

Venus’ orbit and rotation

How long is a day on Venus?

The rotation of Venus is very slow: it takes about 243 Earth days to spin around just once.

How long is a year on Venus?

Ironically, one Venusian day is longer than one Venusian year as it takes Venus 225 Earth days to complete an orbit around the Sun.

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 (66.7 million miles to 67.6 million miles). The average distance is 108.2 million km (67.2 million miles).

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 (25 million miles).

How long does it take to get to Venus?

It took NASA’s Mariner 2 sent to Venus in 1962, and Venera 7 of the Soviet Union 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 that 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.

When can you see Venus?

As Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, the Sun’s glare outshines the planet most of the time. Nevertheless, it becomes visible for terrestrial observers at certain periods of time. The best time to see Venus is when the planet reaches its greatest elongation or, in other words, 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”. And vice versa, the eastern elongation is referred to as the evening one as Venus appears in the sky after sundown.

Upcoming Events

April 30: Venus-Jupiter conjunction

On April 30, 2022, at 19:56 GMT, Venus will meet Jupiter in the constellation Pisces. The planets will be passing each other at a record short distance of 14'. You may have seen the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December 2020, when the two planets were only separated by 6'. This time, Jupiter and Venus will be almost as close. From the Earth, it might seem like Venus (magnitude -4.1) and Jupiter (magnitude -2.1) are merging into one point of light, bright enough to observe with an unaided eye.

Mars will add up to the unique scene, shining nearby with a magnitude of 1.1, which, of course, is not as radiant as Venus and Jupiter combined. The best time to observe the scene is in the morning.

May 27: Moon-Venus conjunction

Another conjunction will happen on May 27, at 02:52 GMT (May 26, 10:52 p.m. EDT), when the dazzling Venus (magnitude -4.0) will meet the 11% illuminated Moon in the constellation Pisces. This will be the closest conjunction of the Moon and Venus in 2022: our natural satellite will pass only 0°12' to the south of the luminous planet!

Start looking for Venus a couple of hours before sunrise, as soon as it rises in the sky. You can learn the exact rising time for your location in the stargazing app Sky Tonight, which also shows the objects’ position in the sky at different times. Venus and the Moon will rise shortly before dawn in the Northern Hemisphere, but in the Southern Hemisphere, where the Sun rises later, observers will have about two decent hours of darkness to see them.

May 27: Lunar occultation of Venus

The same night, several minutes after the conjunction, at 03:03 GMT (May 26, 11:03 p.m. EDT), observers from Southeast Asia and Indonesia will see the Moon passing in front of Venus. This is called a lunar occultation of a planet — a spectacular but hard-to-catch event. Lunar occultations can be seen only from a small part of the Earth’s surface since the Moon’s position in the sky varies up to two degrees from different vantage points.

F.A.Q.

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.

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.

What color is Venus?

Venus appears white and yellow with some reddish and brown spots. The reason is that it’s covered with a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and sulphuric acid clouds.

Is Venus the morning star?

It’s interesting that ancient skygazers 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.

We wish you clear skies and happy observations!

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