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NASA image of the Planet Venus

Credit: NASA / Ricardo Nunes

The planet Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love, and is the second planet out from the Sun. It is the planet that is the most similar to Earth in terms of physical size, with a radius only about 300 kilometers less than Earth’s.

Like Mercury, its inner orbit means that Venus is always close to the Sun, so is best seen either just before sunrise or just after sunset. However the planet is so bright that at times, it can be spotted during the day, if you know where to look! This position also means that, like the Moon, Venus shows different phases depending on where it is located in its orbit relative toEarth.

Perhaps the most unusual feature of Venus is its rotation, which is in the reverse direction to its orbital direction (i.e.: retrograde). It is also the slowest of any planet in the solar system, taking 243 Earth days to complete one rotation.

Quick Stats:

  • Classification:  Terrestrial Planet
  • Radius:  6,051.8 km   (0.95 x Earth)
  • Mass4.8676×1024 kg   (0.815 x Earth)
  • Sidereal Rotation Period: -243 days (retrograde)
  • Orbital Period: 224.7 days
  • Orbital Distance: 0.72 AU (108,208,000 km)
  • Inclination: 3.4°
  • Eccentricity: 0.007
  • Axial Tilt: 177.36°
  • Density: 5.243 g/cm3
  • Surface Gravity: 0.904 g
  • Temperature462°C
  • Moons: 0

Factoids:

  • Venus has the slowest rotation of any planet, and it rotates in a retrograde (backwards) direction.
  • One 360° rotation of Venus takes longer than one Venusian year.
  • Because of its retrograde rotation, one solar day (i.e.: the time between two consecutive meridian, “high noon”,  transits of the Sun) is significantly less than the time taken for one full rotation, at 116.8 days. Even so, this still only allows 1.9 solar days each Venus year.
  • The temperature on Venus is hotter than on Mercury, even though the planet is farther from the Sun.
  • At 462°C, the surface temperature is hot enough to melt some metals, like tin or lead.
  • Venus’ atmosphere is extremely thick, and made primarily of carbon dioxide.
  • At the surface, the pressure of this atmosphere is about ninety times the atmospheric pressure on Earth’s surface.
  • This enormous pressure is equivalent to being almost one kilometer under water.
  • Venus’ surface is obscured by thick clouds. These clouds are highly reflective, and are largely composed of sulfuric acid.
  • In Venus’ high atmosphere, it rains sulfuric acid, but the rain evaporates before it reaches the surface of the planet.
  • After the Sun and Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the night sky.
  • Due to it’s brightness, Venus is visible during the day, if you know where to look!
  • The surface of Venus has many volcanoes, and it is unknown if any of these are currently active.

Terrestrial Planets of the Solar System to Scale:

Terrestrial planets to scale.  Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

The Planet Venus: