This is an artist's rendition of a column of clouds on Venus. The temperature of the different layers is shown at the left.
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The Atmosphere of Venus

The atmosphere of Venus is very hot and thick. You would not survive a visit to the surface of the planet - you couldn't breathe the air, you would be crushed on by the enormous weight of the atmosphere, and you would burn up in surface temperatures high enough to melt lead.

The atmosphere of Venus is made up mainly of carbon dioxide, and thick clouds of sulfuric acid completely cover the planet. The atmosphere traps the small amount of energy from the sun that does reach the surface along with the heat the planet itself releases. This greenhouse effect has made the surface and lower atmosphere of Venus one of the hottest places in the solar system! If you were on the surface of the planet, the air above you would be about 90 times heavier than the Earth's atmosphere. This is like what a submarine experiences at 3000 ft below the surface of the Earth's ocean. The atmosphere is composed mainly of carbon dioxide (96%), 3.5% nitrogen, and less than 1% is made up of carbon monoxide, argon, sulfur dioxide, and water vapor.

Why should Venus and not the Earth have a hot and thick atmosphere? Some scientists call it the Goldilocks phenomenon.

Measurements made by probes which travelled through the atmosphere have shown that the atmospheric temperature remains nearly constant through the long dark night. Thus there are neither significant seasons, nor daily temperature changes in the atmosphere.


Last modified May 19, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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