History of Venus
Venus, the second planet from the Sun, is named for the ancient Roman
goddess of love and beauty. The planet - the only planet named after a
female - may have been named for the most beautiful deity of her
pantheon because it shone the brightest of the five planets known to
In ancient times, Venus was once thought to be two different stars, the
evening star and the morning star - that is, the ones that first
appeared at sunset and sunrise. In Latin, they were respectively known
as Vesper and Lucifer. In Christian times, Lucifer, or "light-bringer,"
became known as the name of Satan before his fall.
Venus and Earth are often called twins because
they are similar in size, mass, density, composition and gravity.
However, the similarities end there.
Venus is the hottest world in the solar system. Although Venus is not
the planet closest to the sun, its dense atmosphere traps heat in a
runaway version of the greenhouse effect that warms up the Earth. As a
result, temperatures on Venus reach 870 degrees F (465 degrees C), more
than hot enough to melt lead. Probes that scientists have landed there
have survived only a few hours before getting destroyed.
The surface of Venus is extremely dry. There is
no liquid water on its surface because the scorching heat would cause
any to boil away. Roughly two-thirds percent of the Venusian surface is
covered by flat, smooth plains that are marred by thousands of
volcanoes, ranging from about 0.5 to 150 miles (0.8 to 240 kilometers)
wide, with lava flows carving long, winding canals up to more than
3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) in length, longer than on any other
Six mountainous regions make up about one-third percent of the Venusian
surface. One mountain range, called Maxwell, is about 540 miles (870
kilometers) long and reaches up to some 7 miles (11.3 kilometers) high,
making it the highest feature on the planet.
Venus also possesses a number of surface features
unlike anything on the Earth. For example, Venus has coronae, or crowns
- ringlike structures that range from roughly 95 to 360 miles (155 to
580 kilometers) wide. Scientists believe these formed when hot material
beneath the crust rises up, warping the planetâ€™s surface.
Venus takes 243 Earth days to rotate on its axis, by far the slowest of
any of the major planets, and because of this sluggish spin, its metal
core cannot generate a magnetic field similar to Earth's.