Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Venus – Earth’s Other Neighbor

Let’s talk about Venus, the second planet from the sun. So exactly how far away is it from the sun? Well, that depends on where it is in its orbit. At perihelion (closest) point it is 66.7 million miles, but at aphelion (farthest) point it is 67.7 million miles away. Remember, everything in our solar system is moving. Each planet rotates on its axis which determines the length of its day. Then each planet rotates in its orbit around the sun, which determines how many days are in its year. Did you know that even the sun itself does a slight rotation in its center position of our solar system?

A year on Venus equals 224.7 Earth days, but the Venusian day stretches on and on. One day on this planet lasts about 243 Earth days. Why do you think that is? If you said because it must rotate very slowly on its axis, then you’re right.
Venus has been referred to as Earth’s sister planet only because of its similar size, gravity, and composition, but unlike Earth, Venus has no moons. The surface of Venus is hard to see because of the reflective clouds of sulfuric acid that surround the planet. Venus has the densest atmosphere of any planet in our solar system. The pressure on the planet’s surface is 90 times greater than that of Earth’s. The probes that have been sent to the surface have collected data but were able to last only a few hours. This is due to the extreme surface temperature reaching 870*F.  

The ancient Egyptians and Greeks thought Venus was actually two separate objects; a morning star and an evening star. Now we know that Venus isn’t a star at all, although it still maintains its nicknames of morning and evening star. When Venus is trailing the sun, it’s at its brightest and comes into view just after the sun sets; it becomes the Evening Star. When Venus leads the sun as it travels across the sky, it will rise in the morning a few hours before the sun; it then becomes the Morning Star. Currently Venus is the Morning Star, rising in the East along the horizon with Jupiter.  

Several joint missions of probes and orbiters have been sent to study Venus since 1961. According to NASA the first was called “Sputnik 7” launched by the USSR in February of 1961. There have been many since then, but recently the “Akatauki” launched by Japan in May, 2010, failed in its mission but will return in 2015. The ESA (European Space Agency) will launch an orbiter named “Bepi Colombo” in July, 2016. This is scheduled as a Mercury orbiter with a fly-by of Venus. A complete mission timeline of probes and orbiters can be found at the NASA site:

 We do know that Venus has mountains, valleys and over 1600 volcanoes, many of which are still active. But we don’t know everything about Venus. Did it once have water? Why does Venus have lightning but no rain? Did you know that Friday (Friga and dae) came from the words meaning, “Venus day?”

For additional information and videos, you may also want to visit: http://www.space.com/44-venus-second-planet-from-the-sun-brightest-planet-in-solar-system.html

My sources: Universetoday.com, PlanetFacts.net, Kidsastronomy.com, Solarsystem.nasa.gov, Space.com, en.wikipedia.org/Venus, Planetfacts.net, and randomhistory.com/Venus, and Stardate.com.

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