You Are At: AllSands Home > Science > Venus the Planet: facts
The brightest object in the sky aside from the sun and moon is Venus. This planet comes closer to the earth than any other planet and is the second planet from the sun. Venus orbits the sun every 225 days at a distance of 67 million miles. With a diameter of 7,052 miles, Venus is nearly the same size as the earth. Its bright appearance in the night sky is due to sunlight being reflected off the cloud cover that surrounds the planet. These clouds, which are made of sulfuric acid, allow sunlight to pass through and heat the surface which gives off infrared rays. These rays become trapped by the atmosphere of Venus. This causes the surface of the planet to heat up creating what is known as the greenhouse effect. Scientist have learned more about the chemistry of earths atmosphere by studying Venus's. It has been recently realized that burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil adds carbon dioxide to earths atmosphere creating the same type of greenhouse warming effect. This has caused changing weather patterns, ice melts, a rise in the oceans and flooding of the coastline areas. A study of the Venus atmosphere has also taught us about the protective layer of ozone in the upper part of our planets atmosphere. The depletion of this ozone layer allows ultraviolet light to enter our atmosphere.
Venus has a dense atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide gas. The dense atmosphere traps heat from the sun creating a surface temperature of 1007 degrees fahrenheit. By using the pulsing radio waves supplied by radars, scientist have been successful in penetrating the clouds around Venus to study the planets surface. Covered with what appeared to be flat rocks made up mostly of basalt, like the volcanic rock found on earth, Venus surface is a single rolling plain. The highest regions on the planet resemble continents with no signs of drifting plates. Due to low wind speeds near the surface of Venus it is believed that erosion on the planet may be cause by melting or other temperature and chemical changes. The color of the planets atmosphere is orange.
Venus has been explored by several space crafts. The Mariner 10 took pictures of the clouds as it passed on it's way to Mercury. In 1979 NASA put the Pioneer Venus in orbit around the planet. Two of the Soviet Unions Vega missions on their way to study Halley's Comet released helium filled balloons into the planets atmosphere to study wind speeds. Another Soviet mission parachuted several robot spacecraft onto Venus to radio back pictures of the surface.