The Earth’s Evil Twin
Often called the Earth’s sister planet, due to their similar size and proximity to each other, Venus is named after the ancient Roman goddess of love and beauty. Although it shares some characteristics with Earth, like size, gravity, while also being a terrestrial planet, it is significantly different. Of all the terrestrial planets, it has the densest atmosphere, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide, and its rocky surface is shrouded in a thick layer of clouds, made up of sulfuric acid. Adding to the list of harsh environmental circumstances are the temperature of Venus, which can reach as high as 465 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest planet in the Solar System, even though it’s not the closet to the Sun, and the atmospheric pressure, which is over 90 times greater than that of Earth. Probes that have successfully landed on Venus only survived for a couple of hours before getting completely destroyed. But, fortunately, they were able to send pictures back to Earth.
A day on Venus last longer than a year, due to planet’s slow rotation around its axis, which last for 243 Earth days, while the time needed for Venus to complete a single revolution around the Sun is 225 Earth days. Interestingly enough, Venus is the only planet that rotates counter-clockwise, also known as retrograde rotation. The reason for this could be because of the collision with an asteroid or some other object, which caused the planet to alter its rotational path. Another property that sets it apart from most planets is that it has no natural satellites. Venus is also the brightest object in the sky, except for the Sun and the Moon. So bright, in fact, that it can cast shadows, given the right set of circumstances.
At one point, it was believed that the surface of Venus hosted a tropical paradise, because of our inability to see the surface from the dense clouds. Only with the development of radio mapping was that claim discarded, revealing a world of extreme temperatures and high atmospheric pressure. Scientists suspect that Venus used to have oceans on its surface, but they evaporated, as the planet’s temperature increased. Venus is also known as the Morning star and the Evening star. Some ancient civilizations thought that Venus was two separate bodies, and was given the names Phosphorus and Hesperus by the Greeks, and Lucifer (light bringer) and Vesper by the Romans.
Venus Transit image, the striations of lines were caused by cloud cover.
When it comes to exploration of Venus, it is one the most studied planets in our Solar System. Russians were, in fact, the first to send a space probe that managed to land on Venus successfully in 1966, called the Venera 3. Their first attempt with Venera 1 wasn’t successful, because it lost contact with base. The first American attempt was with the Mariner 1 space probe, which also failed, although Mariner 2 managed to take measurements of the planet in 1962. In 2006, ESA launched the Venus Express space shuttle into orbit around Venus, which is currently sending back the information about the planet. Although planned to last for 500 days, mission has been extended numerous times.