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Venus

Overview Facts and Figures Missions to Venus
Venus is the "sister planet" to the Earth. Our nearest neighbor in our Solar system, Venus has a similar size and density as Earth.

Venus is the third brightest object we observe in the sky after the Sun and the Moon.

Because it's orbit around the Sun is inside of ours, we see its position relative to the Sun change often, but it is never more than 47° from the Sun. When we see Venus trailing the Sun, we call it the "evening star" and when Venus is ahead of the Sun it is the "morning star."

Since Venus' orbit is only 67 million miles from the Sun (compared with 93 million for Earth), she orbits the Sun in only 225 days and receives more intense radiation. Not surprisingly, the temperatures on Venus are much higher than those we see on Earth.

Venus rotates very slowly around its axis and makes a rotation in 243 Earth-days. Because it takes longer to spin on its axis than it does to travel around the Sun, Venus is the only planet where the Sun rises in the west and travels slowly towards the east.

Venus' atmosphere which consists of carbon dioxide, sulphuric acid and other complex compounds, is very dense with pressures as much as 90 times that of Earth. These result in nearly perpetual clouds covering and hiding the surface from our view. These clouds also trap solar radiation and boost the surface temperatures to over 800°F.

It was not until radar mapping missions were sent to Venus that we were able to understand the surface topology which features plains, mountains, valleys and canyons. Impact craters are also found, but in numbers that suggest that the surface is much younger that that of Mecury or the Moon.