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This picture shows the northern hemisphere of Venus. It was made using radar. It shows how the surface of Venus might look if we could see through the thick atmosphere. The North Pole is at the center of the picture. The bright area below the center is Maxwell Montes, the highest mountain chain on Venus.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL.

The Poles of Venus

Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System. On Earth, places near the equator are much warmer than places near the poles. On Venus, it is really hot everywhere... even at the North and South Poles.

Venus doesn't have any oceans. It does have two large areas of higher ground. Scientists call the raised areas "continents". One continent is near the North Pole. It is called Ishtar Terra and is about as big as Australia. The highest mountain range on Venus is on Ishtar Terra. The mountains are called Maxwell Montes. They are about 11 km (6.6 miles) high, a little bit taller than Mount Everest on Earth.

The land is rugged around the poles of Venus. There are groups of ridges near each pole. These ridges rise a few kilometers above the lower plains. They are up to hundreds of kilometers wide and thousands of kilometers long. One group of ridges is in Lavinia Planitia near the South Pole. Another set of ridges is next to Atalanta Planitia near the North Pole.

Venus isn't tilted on its axis very much. Earth is tilted about 23. Venus is only tilted 3. That means there are no seasons on Venus. It is pretty much the same temperature all year round on Venus... hot!

The atmosphere above the poles of Venus is strange. A "vortex" (plural: vortices) is a swirling mass of air and clouds... like a tornado or a hurricane. There are two vortices in the atmosphere above each of the poles of Venus!

Last modified May 18, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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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