Thursday, December 14

The Planets Part 2: Venus

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Discovered by: The Ancients
Date of Discovery: Unknown
Namesake: The Roman goddess of love and beauty
Distance from Sun (average): 108,208,930 km
Equatorial Radius: 6,051.8 km
Equatorial Circumference: 38,025 km
Volume: 9.284 x 1011 km3 (.88 of Earth)
Mass: 4.8685 x 1024 kg (.815 of Earth)
Density: 5.24 g/cm3 (about the same as Earth)
Rotational Period: -243 Earth days (retrograde)
Time to orbit sun: 224.65 Earth days
Temperature Range: 462 °C
Equatorial Surface Gravity: 8.87 m/s2
Atmosphere: Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen
Moons: None known.

The second planet from the sun is the also the second brightest object in our night-time sky, outperformed only by the Moon itself. It can be bright enough to cast shadows.

Venus is by far the slowest rotating planet in the solar system, taking 243 Earth days to make a single full rotation – more time than it takes for it to travel all the way around the sun!

While Venus shares many similar qualities with the Earth such as size, gravity, mass, and density, it is covered by dense clouds of sulfuric acid which obscures the surface from view. The Russian lander Venera 13 took the first color pictures of the surface in 1982. Because of the similarities and proximity, Venus is the most widely explored planet besides Earth itself.

The Japanese Akatsuki (“Dawn”) mission, launched in May 2010, is on its way to Venus, where it will follow the westward rotation of the atmosphere, mapping the structure of the planet’s thick clouds. It is expected to reach the stormy planet of love and beauty in December, 2010.

Sites for the curious:
NASA’s Solar System Exploration pages
Venus at NASA’s Solar System Exploration
Venus at Wikipedia

The Planets Part 1: Mercury
The Planets Part 2: Venus
The Planets Part 3: Earth
The Planets Part 4: Mars
The Planets Part 5: Jupiter
The Planets Part 6: Saturn
The Planets Part 7: Uranus
The Planets Part 8: Neptune
The Planets Part 9: The Dwarf Planets

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