Know your Solar System – Venus

Named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, its the second brightest object in the night sky, because it reflects almost 70% of all the sunlight it receives, that it shines so bright.

Let’s go through the sister planet’s interesting facts:

  1. The second brightest object in the night sky and sometimes just before dawn. This brightness is due to the planet’s magnitude of -3.8 to -4.6. Fun fact: This lead to the name morning star and sometimes evening star by our previous generations.
  2. One thing that makes this planet unique is, it rotates in the opposite direction to most other planets. Scientists calls this a “retrograde rotation” and they think this could be due to an asteroid or some other object collided with the planet in the past, that changed its course.
  3. It has the least eccentric orbit, making it a near circle.Venus rotates slowly on its axis, thus it takes 243 Earth days to complete on rotation. And it takes 225 Earth days to complete its orbit around the Sun, making a day on Venus takes 117 days on Earth.
  4. Venus is often referred as Earth’s sister planet. Why? They both are almost equal in size, have 81% of the Earth’s mass and they have a central core, a molten mantle and a crust.
  5. The sister planet also has mountains, valleys, and tens of thousands of volcanoes.
  6. The atmosphere is filled with carbon dioxide and nitrogen with traces of other gases but mostly sulfur dioxide. Fun fact: Scientists believe that Venus was once habitable like Earth, with oceans and possibly life. However, after 600 millions to billions of years, a runaway greenhouse effect caused water on the surface to evaporate, that generated critical level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Venus’s Visitors:

Moment of truth – Venus being the closest planet to Earth, has been visited by many space probes to explore that hot rock. There has been ups and downs in that journey, where few launches failed, spacecraft failure and some losing communication after touchdown.

Thanks to Soviet Union, Unites Sates, European Space Agency and Japan for never stop trying!

Here is a brief table of the successful missions to Venus:

Venus Space Probes
Source: Wikipedia

Venus, being so close to us, scientists are still using it as a target to conduct studies and even possible colonization. I know, you are asking, how do we survive on the hottest surface when even a probe couldn’t survive. One word, Terra-forming, a theory first proposed by Carl Sagan in 1961.

It’s a concept of making the global environment of the planet habitable. It hypothetically involves three major changes to the planet’s atmosphere,

  • Reducing Venus’s temperature.
  • Eliminating planet’s carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide atmosphere   via removal or conversion of some other form.
  • Adding breathable air to the atmosphere

It’s a theory that, hopefully one day we can make it work, might help Earth too!

Venusballoonoutpost
Source: Wikipedia (Floating city)

Interesting Fact:

Scientists are even considering/exploring about “floating cities” using aerostat habitats.

This is based on the concept that breathable air is a lifting gas in the dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, with over 60% of the lifting power that helium has on Earth. In effect, a balloon full of human-breathable air would sustain itself and extra weight (such as a colony) in midair.

With the right dip into the atmosphere, protection against cosmic radiation would be provided by the atmosphere above the balloon, with shielding mass equivalent to Earth’s.

It has its issues, but thinking of a possibility of it is something to hold on to and dream about!

Halley

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