Planet Venus: characteristics and facts

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Have you heard about the Roman goddess Venus? Well, the name of this planet was given in honor of this deity. It is the second closest planet to the Sun and the closest to Earth. It is possible to observe the Venus surface with the naked eye from Earth. This is also possible because it is the brightest celestial body in the Solar System except for the Sun and the Moon.

Venus is a rocky planet, without satellites and without rings. It is an extreme planet; very hot, dry and with a surface pressure 90 times higher than that of Earth.

It is in fact the hottest planet of all despite not being closer to the Sun than Mercury. Although its dimensions are very similar to those of Earth, its atmosphere and composition make life highly unlikely.

The hot planet rotates very slowly in a retrograde motion, it rotates in a clockwise direction. If the North Pole is taken as a reference, from east to west instead of west to east like the rest of the planets. It takes Venus 243,187 Earth days to make a complete turn on itself.

The reason for the peculiar rotation of the planet is not known. If the Sun could be seen from its surface, it would appear rising from the west and settling from the east. Its day-night cycle is 116.75 Earth days.

General characteristics

Diameter: 12,104 kilometers.

Mass: 4.8673 × 10 24 kilograms.

Volume: 928,415,345,893 km 3.

Density: 5,243 g / cm 3.

Venus Surface temperature: 462 °C.

Venus surface

The planet is known to have a rocky surface thanks to NASA’s Magellan mission, which obtained information from 98 percent of the planet. Previously there were only speculations, because from space it is only possible to observe the planet’s clouds. Venus is now known to have a solid surface that features various shades of gray, with many craters and canyons.

Geology

About 90% of the surface of Venus appears to consist of recently solidified basalt with very few meteorite craters. The oldest formations present on the planet do not appear to be more than 800 million years old. Most of the soil being considerably younger, not more than a few hundred million years for the most part. This suggests that the planet suffered a cataclysm that affected its surface not long ago in the geological past.

Topology

Venus has two main continents like highlands, rising over a vast plain. Ishtar Terra is the northern plateau. The largest mountain on the planet (approximately two kilometers higher than Mount Everest), Maxwell Montes is located on this plateau. Ishtar Terra is about the size of Australia. In the Southern Hemisphere Aphrodite Terra is located. It is larger than Ishtar Terra. Its size is equivalent to that of South America. Among others, these smaller highlands include Lada Terra, Beta Regio, Phoebe Regio and Themis Regio.

Between these highlands there are some deposition plains and lowlands which include Atalanta Planitia, Guinevere Planitia and Lavinia Planitia. With the sole exception of Mount Maxwell, all distinguishable features of the terrain are named after mythological women.

Craters

The dense atmosphere of Venus causes the meteorites to disintegrate abruptly on their descent. The larger ones can reach the surface, creating a crater if they have enough kinetic energy. Because of this, impact craters smaller than 3.2 kilometers in diameter cannot form. For example, Howe Crater is over 23 kilometers in diameter.

Volcanoes

There are also more than 1,000 volcanoes that exceed 20 kilometers in diameter. Volcanic systems make up a kind of sinuous channels that extend for hundreds of kilometers and reach 4,000 kilometers in length. Venus is not thought to have movable tectonic plates like Earth. Instead, massive volcanic eruptions occur on the planet, flooding its surface with lava. Other recent discoveries suggest that Venus is still volcanically active.

Composition

Venus’ interior is probably similar to that of Earth. An iron core about 3,000 km in radius, with a rocky outer core that makes up most of the planet. According to data from the Magellan probe’s gravity meters, the crust of the planet may be harder and thicker than previously thought.

The magnetic field of Venus is very weak compared to that of other planets in the solar system. This may be due to its slow rotation, insufficient to form core dynamo. As a result, the solar wind hits the planet’s atmosphere without being filtered. It is assumed that it originally had as much water as Earth. However, being subjected to the Sun without any protective filter, the water vapor in the upper atmosphere disintegrated into hydrogen and oxygen. Then hydrogen escaped into space due to its low molecular mass.

The percentage of deuterium (a heavy hydrogen isotope that does not escape easily) in the atmosphere seems to support this theory. Molecular oxygen is supposed to have combined with atoms in the crust (although large amounts of oxygen remain in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide). Because of this dryness, rocks on Venus are much denser than those on Earth. This favors the formation of larger mountains, taller cliffs, and other geological formations.

The atmosphere of Venus

The planet’s atmosphere is made up mostly of carbon dioxide. Its clouds contain droplets of sulfuric acid and very small amounts of water. It is very thick and dense. That is why the Sun’s heat is being trapped in the planet’s atmosphere. Something similar to what happens due to the greenhouse effect on Earth, but on the hottest planet in the solar system, this phenomenon is enhanced.

The planet’s atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of the Earth. In short, it is an extremely hot planet. Probes that have managed to reach its surface have not withstood the temperatures for more than 2 hours. Normally, smaller objects that reach the planet are destroyed in its atmosphere.

Is there life on Venus?

An international team of scientists has recently detected traces of a rare molecule, phosphine, in the planet’s clouds. This molecule could be indicative of the potential presence of life on the planet. On Earth, this gas is produced by microbes that live in oxygen-free environments.

Astronomers have speculated for decades about the possible existence of such microorganisms in the planet’s clouds. They assumed that these microorganisms would float to avoid the planet’s scorching surface but would need a very high tolerance to acidity. The new research, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, could point to such extraterrestrial “airborne” life.

Based on the findings, researchers put forward two hypotheses. Either the origin of the gas is found in other chemical processes unknown to date. Or the amount of phosphine found is due to the action of microorganisms. That is, there is life on the hottest planet in the solar system.

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