This radar map of the northern hemisphere of Venus shows how the surface might look if we could peer through the planet's thick atmosphere. The North Pole is at the center of the image. The bright region just 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
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 any Venusian polar ice caps, there are interesting features at the planet's poles. Some rugged mountain ranges, as well as the tallest mountain on the planet, lie at high latitudes on Venus. The polar atmosphere contains swirling double vortices of winds and clouds.
Although we cannot peer through the thick clouds of Venus to see its surface, scientists have mapped its features using radar. Venus has two "continents" - large areas of raised land. One of these, Ishtar Terra, is about the size of Australia and lies near the North Pole. The highest mountain chain on Venus, Maxwell Montes, is on Ishtar Terra. The mountains are located at a latitude similar to Alaska and tower 11 km (6.6 miles) above the average surface height of Venus.
Some of the lowlands on Venus are crossed by ridge belts which are up to hundreds of kilometers wide and thousands long. The ridge belts rise several kilometers above the surrounding lowlands. There are two major concentrations of these belts: one in Lavinia Planitia near the South Pole, and another next to Atalanta Planitia by the North Pole.
The surface temperatures on Venus are extremely high, around 464° C (867° F). The incredibly dense atmosphere spreads this heat evenly over the surface and keeps it very steady through time. The nighttime side of the planet is just as hot as daytime side, and poles of Venus are just as scorching hot as the equator. The spin axis of Venus is tilted a mild 3° (compared to Earth's 23°). Due to this minimal tilt and the thick atmosphere, there are no seasons on Venus. Wherever you go... and whenever you go... on Venus, you can count on it being hot!
There are swirling double vortices in the Venusian polar atmosphere above each of the poles. Polar vortices form on other planets, including Earth and Saturn. However, the double-vortex structures seem unique to Venus.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more
On May 4, 1989, Magellan, a spacecraft built mostly from spare parts from other missions, was carried into Earth orbit by the Atlantis space shuttle and launched toward Venus. It arrived on Aug. 10, 199...more
Ishtar Terra is one of the Plateau Highlands of Venus, is found near the north pole, and is about the size of the continental United States. Ishtar Terra contains the four main mountain ranges of Venus...more
The four main mountain ranges of Venus are named Maxwell Montes, Frejya Montes, Akna Montes, and Danu Montes. These are found on Ishtar Terra. Mountain ranges are formed by the folding and buckling of...more
The atmosphere of Venus is very hot and thick. 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...more
The Earth is rotating around an axis (called its rotational axis). Some objects rotate about a horizontal axis, like a rolling log. Some objects, such as a skater, rotate about a vertical axis. The Earth's...more
The Earth travels around the Sun one full time per year. During the year, the seasons change depending on the amount of sunlight reaching parts of the Earth. The seasons are caused because the Earth is...more
This is a map of the surface of Venus (turned sideways!). Lowlands in the map are similar to an ocean bottom, and highlands resemble continents. As can be seen in the image, the surface of Venus consists...more