Venus is the second-closest planet to the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows. Because Venus is an inferior planet from Earth, it never appears to venture far from the Sun: its elongation reaches a maximum of 47.8°. Venus reaches its maximum brightness shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset, for which reason it is often called the Morning Star or the Evening Star.
Classified as a terrestrial planet, it is sometimes called Earth's "sister planet" because they are similar in size, gravity, and bulk composition. Venus is covered with an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. Venus has the densest atmosphere of all the terrestrial planets, consisting mostly of carbon dioxide, as it has no carbon cycle to lock carbon back into rocks and surface features, nor organic life to absorb it in biomass. A younger Venus is believed to have possessed Earth-like oceans, but these totally evaporated as the temperature rose, leaving a dusty dry desertscape with many slab-like rocks. The water has most likely dissociated, and, because of the lack of a planetary magnetic field, the hydrogen has been swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind. The atmospheric pressure at the planet's surface is 92 times that of the Earth.
Venus's surface was a subject of speculation until some of its secrets were revealed by planetary science in the twentieth century. It was finally mapped in detail by Project Magellan in 1990–91. The ground shows evidence of extensive volcanism, and the sulfur in the atmosphere may indicate that there have been some recent eruptions. However, the absence of evidence of lava flow accompanying any of the visible caldera remains an enigma. The planet has few impact craters, demonstrating that the surface is relatively young, approximately half a billion years old. There is no evidence for plate tectonics, possibly because its crust is too strong to subduct without water to make it less viscous. Instead, Venus may lose its internal heat in periodic massive resurfacing events.
- ↑ Hashimoto, G. L.; Roos-Serote, M.; Sugita, S.; Gilmore, M. S.; Kamp, L. W.; Carlson, R. W.; Baines, K. H. (2008). "Felsic highland crust on Venus suggested by Galileo Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer data". Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets 113: E00B24. doi:10.1029/2008JE003134.
- ↑ Caught in the wind from the Sun. ESA (Venus Express) (2007-11-28). Retrieved on 2008-07-12.
- ↑ Esposito, Larry W. (1984-03-09). "Sulfur Dioxide: Episodic Injection Shows Evidence for Active Venus Volcanism". Science 223 (4640): 1072–1074. doi:10.1126/science.223.4640.1072. PMID 17830154. Retrieved on 2009-04-29.
- ↑ Bullock, Mark A.; Grinspoon, David H. (March 2001). "The Recent Evolution of Climate on Venus". Icarus 150 (1): 19–37. doi:10.1006/icar.2000.6570.
- ↑ Nimmo, F.; McKenzie, D. (1998). "Volcanism and Tectonics on Venus". Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 26: 23–53. doi:10.1146/annurev.earth.26.1.23. Bibcode: 1998AREPS..26...23N.