Planet Earth’s Inhospitable Neighbors
Extreme Temperatures and Violent Atmospheres help Make Make and Venus Mysterious
by Yesenia Martinez, age 11
Did you know that the two nearest planets to Earth are Venus and Mars? Every planet circles the sun in a different amount of time, which is called a planet’s year. Venus takes 225 days to complete a year, Mars takes 687 days, and Earth takes 365 days.
Venus is the hottest planet even though Mercury is closer to the sun. Venus is hotter because it is fully covered with clouds. So when the heat builds up, the clouds trap it. The clouds in Venus are not the same as the clouds on Earth; they contain poisonous drops of acid that would burn your skin. These clouds do not let much sunshine reach the surface of Venus.
The winds on Mars can make enormous dust storms that can cover the whole planet. Mars is covered with red dust and is very dry, just like the deserts on Earth. When the space probe, called Mariner 9, arrived on Mars in 1971, the whole planet was covered with dust clouds. Mariner 9 was the first space probe to circle another planet. It took more than 7,000 pictures of volcanoes, valleys, ice caps, and dried-up riverbeds.
Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system, called the Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is three times higher than Mount Everest, which is the biggest mountain on Earth. This huge volcano has not erupted for millions of years.
[Sources: 100 Things You Should Know About Space; Atlas of the Universe]