Science

6 things you didn’t know about Venus

What do you know about Venus? We’re not talking about the Roman goddess of love. We’re talking about the planet — the second from the sun in our solar system. Here are a few interesting facts about Venus you probably didn't know.

Venus is the second brightest object in our night sky

Stars in a dark sky
Credit: weirick/ Unsplash

From our perspective on Earth, Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky after the moon. The planet has a magnitude rating between -3.8 to -4.6, which is why it’s so bright. You can even see Venus in daylight on a clear day. Its brightness from the Earth's perspective is also due to its proximity. The planet was so bright that once an Air Canada pilot performed an emergency dive in 2011 because he mistook the planet for an oncoming plane!

A day lasts longer than a year on Venus

We don’t think people will be lining up for a vacation on Venus if space travel goes commercial. The planet has a notoriously slow rotation on its axis, which means that it takes 243 Earth days to complete one rotation. If we counted one rotation from January 1st, it would take until sometime in August for Venus to complete one full day. Even if we just focus on a solar day (daylight hours), it still equals 117 Earth days. A day lasts longer than a year on Venus and since the planet is so close to the sun, it takes less time for it to complete a rotation. A year on Venus is the equivalent of 225 Earth days.

Venus is the Earth’s sister planet

View of earth from space
Credit: NicoElNino/ Shutterstock

Although Venus is completely different from Earth in terms of climate, lack of hospitable living conditions, and rotation speed, it is roughly the same size and brightness as our planet. For this reason, Venus is often considered the Earth’s sister planet. Venus has roughly 81% of the mass of the Earth and there is only a diameter difference of 399 miles between the two planets. Both planets also have a similar composition that includes a central core, molten mantle, and crust.

Venus has a retrograde rotation

A retrograde rotation means that a planet rotates backwards. While most planets rotate counterclockwise on their axes, Venus rotates clockwise. There are very few planets in our solar system that exhibit this behavior. The other planet that has a retrograde rotation is Uranus. We can’t explain why Venus rotates this way, but one possible theory is that the planet was hit by an asteroid, which caused it to change its direction.

Venus’s surface is inhospitable

Desert with blue sky
Credit: huafeng207/ Shutterstock

Spending time on Venus’ surface would be as intense as if you tried to reach the deepest parts of the ocean — without a pressure-resistant craft. The pressure on Venus’ surface is 92 times greater than that on Earth’s surface. It’s so strong that when space agencies sent probes to the planet, they were crushed within a couple of hours of entry into the atmosphere. As if that weren’t bad enough, the atmosphere is extremely corrosive. While Earth’s atmosphere primarily consists of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon, the primary components on Venus are carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. Just to make it more challenging, the surface temperature is a blazing 880 degrees Fahrenheit — making it the hottest planet in our solar system.

Venus is a lonely planet

The planets in our solar system usually have something else within their orbit. Earth has the Moon. Saturn and Neptune have rings. Some planets like Jupiter have multiple moons and some planets have both — rings and a moon. But Venus is a lonely planet that doesn’t have any moons or rings. It's the only planet that has this solitary existence. Scientists don’t know why this is so, but they continue to investigate and compare it to other planets to try to understand why this happened.