Published on May 10th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie2
Planet Venus: The Harsh Version Of Earth
Planet Venus Taken By The Magellan Probe
The Romans dubbed it the God of Love. We now know that the planet Venus’s hostile surface and intoxicating gases would show very little love to people if we ever set foot on its soil. The real Venus is a very different place to the one that we imagined but yet it bares striking similarities to our own home-world, Earth.
Along with Mars, Venus is one of the planets that we share a close affinity with. Perhaps this is because it is the nearest planet, or perhaps because it is the brightest object in the night sky.
Venus’s Earth-Like Similarities
Maybe our fascination resides in the fact that planet Venus is almost the size of the Earth. With a diameter of 12,104 kilometres (7,521 miles), it is just marginally smaller than the Earth which has a diameter of 12,755 Km (7,925 miles). Venus’s year is much shorter than ours. It takes just 225 Earth days for the planet to orbit the Sun.
However, the similarities ends there. Venus has one of the longest days of all the planets in the Solar System. It takes 243 Earth-days for it to complete one rotation from sunrise to sunrise.
Venus’s Bright Idiosyncrasies
One of the strangest aspects of planet Venus is the direction of its rotation. All of the other planets in the Solar System, with the exception of Uranus, rotate from west to east. However, Venus spins in the opposite direction from East to West in a retrograde orbit.
Some astronomers believe that a combination of tidal forces and chaotic spin cycles resulted in the planet slowly over billions of years adopting its present rotation direction. Whilst others argue that a massive impact caused the planet to change rotation.
One of the brightest sights in the night skies, Venus is second only to the Moon in terms of brighness. As a result of this, it is sometimes referred to as the Evening or Morning Star.
The atmosphere of planet Venus seems to be completely inhospititable to life. With a daily mean temperature of 465 degrees Celsuis (867 degrees Fahrenheit, Venus is even hotter than Mercury which is the closest planet to the Sun. The atmosphere consists of a toxic composition of carbon dioxide, and clouds of sulphuric acid.
The Mapping Of Planet Venus’s Surface
Much of the terrain of Venus has been mapped by radio and recently more sophisticated radio waves from space probes. In 1982 the Soviet space probe Venera 13 landed on the planet photographing images of the planet surface. Despite having heavy protection to deal with the planet’s hostile atmosphere, Venera 13 was functional for just two hours.
Planet Venus has some of the strangest geological features of any planet. The atmosphere of Venus may be of enormous help to us in terms of finding the role of the ‘Greenhouse Gasses’ and what effect it had on the evolution of the planet.
Venus is a planet that has no tectonic plates. Although there is evidence to suggest that there may have been plates, what exists now is just one solid crust enveloping the whole of the planet.
In 1989, the Magellan probe entered Venus’s orbit providing the most accurate picture of the Venusian surface to date. Magellan brought up some startling results, indentifying features which are not found on Earth.
Exotic features which have been called pancake domes were found on one of the highland areas of planet Venus, known as Eistla Regio plateau. They are thought to be created when highly viscous lava broke from beneath the surface. The lava then quickly solidified leaving mounds of circular bumps averaging 25 kilometres (16 miles) across and up to 750 metres (2,500 feet). These are imposing strucures with near-vertical sides.
Other features are coronae and arachnoids. These are concentric rings that are spliced with radial cracks. It is thought that these are formed when lava plumes pushed the surface upwards. Once the pressure drops the crust sinks back to fill the hole the lava plumes created.
The Strange Case Of The Youthful Surface
One of the most interesting findings has been the age of the surface of Venus. It is believed that over 90 per cent of the surface of planet Venus is only 600 million years old. This is startling as there is no tectonic movement on Venus. The lack of tectonics is also puzzling as volcanoes require tectonic movement to exist.
The current mode of thought concerning the subject is that Venus is a ticking pressure cooker. Forces within Venus build and build until every couple of 100 million years or so the planet ‘blows’. Lava completely covers the planet and the process starts all over again.
Since 2006 the Venus Express probe has been orbiting the planet with a view to finding out about effects ‘greenhouse gases‘ have had and continue to have on the planet.
Venus will continue to be a part of human observation and thought. It stark, seemingly uninhabitable environment is very different from our own planet’s. However, this will not always be the case. It is clear that in time to come the Sun will destroy life on Earth as we know it. We may have to take stark heed of planet Venus’s environment because it will be our own. The only question is when.
Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Sun: Our Source Of Light And Life and Terraforming Mars: How To Create Another Home Planet for further insight.
Highly Recommended Reading
Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Solar Maximum: The Years The Earth Is Left Defenceless and The Solar System And Beyond: A Guide To The Cosmos.
Cosmos is a highly recommended book. It contains large, full-page pictures of Mars and writing on the subject by the highly competent author, Giles Sparrow.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Cosmos from here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain: Cosmos here.
For Germany: Cosmos.
For France: Cosmos.