|Venus Planet ID|
|Planet size comparison, from left to right: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars|
Let's talk about the second rock from the Sun, Venus. Now, why did I call it Earth's twin? First of all, its size of course, and secondly, its closeness to us, we get closer to Venus that we get close to any other world in the Solar System. When Venus is illuminated by the Sun, we see it as we see the moon, as a crescent. When the Sun's light doesn't reach it, however, we see it like a really bright flickering star. 'Flickering' is because of our atmosphere, think of it like an optical illusion. 'Really bright' is because the planet's constant volcanic activity.
Its glow has affected many human culture over the centuries.
- In Babylonian mythology, the planet is Ishtar, the personification of womanhood and the goddess of love.
- In Greek mythology, the planet is Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation,
- In Phoenician mythology, the planet is Astarte, goddess of fertility, sexuality, and war.
- In Roman mythology, the planet is Venus, the goddess beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and military victory.
- In Persian mythology, the planet is Anahita, a name that has the following meanings: divine, pure or immaculate, and mighty. She was a worshipped maiden.
Wow, were these people wrong. Venus is as hostile as a place can be. To kick things off, it's the hottest planet in our solar system (you might think it's Mercury, but the green house effect on Venus tilts the odds). Here's a list of how Venus might try to kill you:
- The atmospheric temperature is so high, it could melt Iron 480 °C (894 °F), so standing there could be somewhat...unpleasant. Making things more fun, are plate tectonics, not also does the melting surface beneath you move all the time, the heat weakens the entire crust, and there are times of intense volcanism where the whole terrain gets resurfaced. The last time Venus resurfaced was 5 million years ago, but I don't advise you to visit anyway.
- There is rain on Venus! Rain made of sulfuric acid, also called oil of vitriol, and it's what is used for lead-acid batteries for vehicles. Sulfuric acid exists as a liquid, and thick sulfuric acid clouds completely obscure the planet's surface when viewed from above, making it very hard for astronomers to map the terrain. The permanent Venusian clouds produce a concentrated acid rain, as the clouds in the atmosphere of Earth produce water rain.
- The atmospheric pressure on Venus is close to 92 atmospheres. The atmospheric pressure on Earth is 1 atmosphere. To give you a better idea, on Earth, if you ever go diving, the atmospheric pressure increases by 1 atmosphere for every 10 meters you dive. So, to experience what it would be like to stand on Venus, you'll have to go nearly 1 kilometer below the water's surface.
- The Venusian magnetosphere is not as strong as you'd think it would be, UV light will probably grill you. The Sun-Venus interactions are always going strong. There is a satellite trying to acquire more information about the planet's atmosphere and magnetic field, it's ESA's Venus express, click here for more info on the artificial moon.
- Super fast storms, storms that go around the whole planet in 4 days, and remember, it's a planet almost as big(or as small) as the Earth! Winds are 100m/s (220 mph) fast on average.
By all means, never visit the pretty goddess.
Venus has a few astronomical particularities. First of all, a day on Venus is longer than year on Venus. (The time the planet needs to rotate around its axis is greater than the time it needs to rotate around the sun, so it's less than a Venusian sunset per year). A side from the fact that it rotates excruciatingly slowly, it's one of the two planets in our solar system that rotate clockwise (the other is Uranus). Why? Astronomers are not sure, but it's probably due to a huge collision that knocked it out and rotated it backwards, maybe with a moon that Venus might have had in the past, or a really big asteroid. The sad thing is, it's impossible to prove a collision because like I said earlier, the planet keeps resurfacing. Other theories include the planet flipping, in a way that its north pole is now its south pole and vice versa, or due to plate tectonics, gravity and tidal forces.
Finally, make sure you observe it when you get the chance, you can see it with the naked eye, and right now (January 2012), it's quite close to the moon every evening, right after sunset. I'll publish an article on the transit Venus before its occurrence in early June 2012, until then, happy stargazing.
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