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This awesome image of Venus was taken by the Magellan spacecraft.
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Courtesy of NASA

Discover Venus

Venus is one of the brightest objects in the sky, so it is clearly visible to the naked eye. It can be tricky to spot, however, because it is always near the Sun. Because of this, it rises and sets with the Sun each day. Ancient civilizations believed they were actually two different objects, so they called the one which rose the Morning Star, and the one which sets the Evening Star. Of course, we now know it's the same object!

No one knows who really discovered Venus, since it is so obvious in the sky. However, much has been discovered about Venus in the past century. In the 1950's astronomer Robert Richardson noticed that Venus rotates "backwards". In other words, on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. Eventually, radar was used to prove his theory. At the same time, scientists found that Venus rotates very slowly, with a period of 243 days.

Mercury has only been visited by one spacecraft, but Venus was much luckier. The United States and the Soviet Union were competing to send probes to Venus. Almost everything we know about the planet came as a result of this race. We now know that Venus has a very dense atmosphere that consists mostly of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide. The surface of Venus is very hot, reaching temperatures of 900 ° F.

Even today we are continually exploring our neighbor planet. In 1990, the Magellan spacecraft began mapping the surface of Venus. The spacecraft revealed volcanos, craters and the absence of water.

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An Overview of the Interior and Surface of Venus

Venus is the second planet from the Sun, and is Earth's neighbor in the solar system. Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, and sometimes looks like a bright star in the...more

History of Venus Transits

Transits of Venus are extremely rare astronomical phenomena. They occur in pairs, separated by eight years, with more than a century elapsing between successive pairs of transits. There will be two Venus...more

Transits of Venus

The planet Venus periodically passes directly between Earth and the Sun. This event, which is somewhat similar to a solar eclipse, is called a transit of Venus. Viewed from Earth, Venus and Mercury are...more

The Poles of Venus

Would you expect to find ice caps and snow fields on Venus? Not likely! Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System, and those high temperatures extend right on up to the poles. Though there aren't...more

The Polar Atmosphere of Venus

Venus has odd, swirling vortices in its atmosphere above each of the planet's poles. These vortex structures were first detected over the North Pole by NASA's Pioneer Venus Orbiter in 1978. The European...more

The Cooling of Venus

A planet goes through cycles of history depending upon how it cools in time. The following may be the history of Venus. Venus formed about 4 Billion Years ago. at the conclusion of forming it continued...more

Venus Tick

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA