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Venus - Rotating Model
Credit: Almond/NASA

Venus is the second planet from the Sun. Apart from the Moon, Venus is the brightest natural object in the night sky.

Venus is one of the four terrestrial planets in the Solar System, meaning that, like Earth, it has a rocky composition and solid surface. The atmosphere of Venus is made of a thick layer of cloud that is mostly carbon dioxide. The surface pressure is 92 times that experienced on Earth. The thick clouds have helped to create a very strong Greenhouse Effect making Venus the hottest planet in the Solar System, even though Mercury is closer to the Sun! The temperature at the surface can get as high as 462 °C. Venus is also very unusual because it spins in a different direction to all the other planets.

A map of Venus' surface using radar
Credit: NASA

Although the thick clouds stop us from seeing the surface of Venus it has been mapped using radar imaging. This has showed that there are lots of volcanoes and large craters on Venus. There are no craters smaller than 3 km on Venus because small meteors burn up in the thick clouds before reaching the surface.

The Soviet Union, United States, European Space Agency and Japan have all sent spacecraft to visit Venus. Since the first visit by Mariner 2 in 1962, over 25 other spacecraft have been to Venus. The first one to go into orbit around Venus, called Magellan, produced the radar images of the surface (see image on the left).

Planet Data Sheet show »« hide
Facts and FiguresMercuryVenus EarthMarsJupiter SaturnUranusNeptune
Orbital Distance (AU)10.380.72 1.01.525.2 9.4519.230.06
Radius (KM)2,4406,052 6,3783,39771,492 60,26825,55924,746
Mass (Earth Masses)20.0550.82 1.00.11318 95.214.517.1
Year Length
(Earth Days)
88225 365.2568711.9
Day Length
(Earth Days)
176117 0.430.750.67
Surface Gravity (g)30.380.91 1.00.382.34 0.930.921.12
Surface Temperature-200 to
400 °C
460 °C -80 to
50 °C
-150 to
20 °C
-110 °C -140 °C-190 °C-200 °C
Number of moons00 1263 602713
Notes: 1 1 AU (or Astronomical Unit) = 149,600,000 KM and is the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun
2 1 Earth Mass = 5,980,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 KG : 3 1 g = 9.8 m/s2