The Solar System's Hottest Planet Continues to Fascinate Scientists


Venus, a planet named after the ancient Roman goddess of love and beauty, is our solar systems’ hottest planet. Although it is only the second planet from the sun and relatively the same size as Earth, the climate and conditions on Venus are drastically different compared to most planets in our solar system.

Located 67 million miles from the sun, Venus is one of the two planets that has a “backwards rotation”, the other being Uranus. With a backwards rotation, Venus rotates a direction opposite to its orbit around the sun. In this case, Venus spins from east to west. Due to this unique rotation, one year on Venus is equivalent to 225 Earth days and one day for Venus is 243 Earth days. This means Venus has the longest day in our solar system.

Compared to most planets in the solar system that orbit in an elliptical shape, Venus has a mostly circular orbit around the sun. In fact, its orbit is nearly a perfect circle. Unlike Earth’s seasons ,which are caused by an axis tilt of 23.5 degrees, Venus’ axis tilt is only three degrees. As a result, the planet is left with a lack of seasons and experiences year-round hot weather.

However, it is not the axis tilt which directly causes Venus’ extreme heat. Venus’ atmosphere is mainly composed of carbon dioxide and clouds that carry sulfuric acid droplets. Due to this abundance of greenhouse gases, a thick atmosphere traps heat inside the planet. Surface heat on Venus can reach extraordinary temperatures up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it comes to Venus’ structure, landforms mostly include mountains and volcanoes. Hot churning rocks, which make up the planet’s mantle and crust, are constantly moving due to the planet’s high interior temperatures. As a result, volcanoes and mountains are created and form a dusty landscape. Venus’ highest mountain, Maxwell Montes, stands 20,000 feet tall, about the same elevation as Mount Everest. Along with this mountain, Venus has two main highland areas: Ishtar Terra located in the North Polar Region, and Aphrodite Terra located near the equator. Ishtar Terra is approximately the size of Australia while Aphrodite Terra is around the same size as South America and extends for nearly 6,000 miles.

In addition to the mountains and volcanoes on Venus’ surface, hundreds of craters cover the planet's landscape. These craters are usually caused by large meteoroids of .9 to 1.2 miles, because small ones burn up in Venus’ thick dense atmosphere and never come in contact with the land.

Whether or not life previously existed on Venus is unknown. Scientists to this day still observe the unique features and surface pattern of Venus. From its scalding temperatures to its awesome volcanoes, Venus will remain as an area of study for astronomers.

[Sources: nasa.org; Discover Magazine]

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