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 morning or evening sky. We can't see the surface of the planet because it has a very thick atmosphere filled with clouds that strongly reflect sunlight. Observations of Venus in the ultraviolet show cloud features that relate to characteristics of the planet's atmosphere. Venus is slightly smaller than Earth, and considering its neighboring position in the solar system might be expected to be similar to Earth. We think that the internal structure of Venus is similar to Earth, with a metallic core, rocky mantle, and crust. The atmosphere of Venus produces hostile conditions at the planet's surface, where temperatures can reach more than 460C (900F), atmospheric pressure is 90 times that at the Earth's surface, and clouds filled with sulfuric acid surround the planet. Nonetheless, space missions sent to Venus have managed to land on and photograph the surface while the Magellan spacecraft mapped the surface of the planet from above. These maps reveal a surface covered with craters, over 1600 major volcanoes, mountains, large highland terrains, and vast lava plains.

Last modified May 19, 2009 by Randy Russell.

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