Venus is the hottest planet. It is the second planet from the sun and the sixth largest planet. Its average distance from the sun is 67,000,000 miles. It is named for Venus who was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It is the only planet named after a woman. Venus has no moons.
Venus has been thought of as 'Earth's twin.' They are about the same size and made from the same material, but they are very different. The clouds of sulfuric acid hold in the heat and make the surface temperatures 870 degrees F. The clouds are like a big greenhouse cover. About twenty percent of the heat does get through the clouds, however, and gives it to the rocks on the surface.
Venus has hundreds of volcanoes. More than eighty-five percent of the surface is covered in volcanic lava. Scientists believe that these volcanoes do not erupt violently like the ones on Earth. They think they slowly drip or ooze out the lava. A volcano which has cracks radiating out from its center like a spider's web is called an arachnoid volcano. Spiders are part of the arachnid family. Volcanic lava covers more than eighty-five percent of the surface of Venus.
The atmosphere is very dense and pushes a heavy weight down onto anything on the planet. Huge lightning bolts are seen in the clouds regularly. Venus is considered a terrestrial planet because its topography is like that of Earth. It has hills, valleys, and mountains. One set of mountains on Venus is called the Maxwell Mountains. All other craters and mountains have female names. One mountain range is taller than Mt. Everest.
Because Venus is closer to the sun than Earth, it is not visible during the day. It is usually the brightest light in the night sky, however, except for the moon. When the planet is west of the sun, it rises in the morning and is called the Morning Star. When it is east of the sun, it is called the Evening Star. The sunlight reflecting back into space from the thick clouds above Venus make it easy to see from Earth.
The planet rotatesin reverse compared to all other planets. It rotates in a clockwise manner while others rotate counter-clockwise. Possibly this is due to the impact of a large asteroid in the past. A large lava feature on the surface of Venus is called the 'pancake dome.' A pancake dome is caused by thick lava erupting slowly. It is three thousand feet high and twenty miles wide.
Venus goes around the sun in 225 earth days. However, the planet spins so slowly that it does not make a complete rotation around its axis for 243 earth days. Its day is longer than its year.
The unmanned Mariner 2 spacecraft was the first to pass by Venus in 1962. The Venera 7 spacecraft sent up by the Soviet Union landed on Venus in 1970. It was the first spacecraft to land on another planet. Venera 9 took black and white photographs in 1975. In 1982, Venera 13 took colored pictures. Magellan went into orbit around Venus from 1990-1994. It was able to see through the clouds by using radar pulses. These radar pulses helped to create images of the surface. The Magellan went around Venus in three and one-half hours.
The Polar Express has been orbiting Venus since 2006. It has been studying the dense atmosphere, the rapidly moving clouds and the effects the sun has on the planet. It has even discovered some evidence that some of the volcanoes on Venus may be active.
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