Thursday, July 26, 2012

Venus -- The Morning/Evening Star

Venus, named after the Roman God of love and beauty, boasts a myraid of oddities. For one, it's the most Earth-like planet in the solar system (it's even similar in size, mass and composition), but unlike Earth, it has an extremely dense atmosphere full of greenhouse gasses that cause the surface temperatures on the terrestrial planet to exceed 870 degrees F (465 degrees C), which is sufficiently hot enough to melt lead. Its thick atmosphere has made it a difficult planet to explore, so we don't know a whole lot about the mechanisms that make this stange planet tick, other than information collected from probes that were sent to explore the planet and its atmosphere. Most of our information about Venus came from the Soviet "Venera" program that accomplished not only the first successful spacecraft landing on another planet, but it remains the only space program to EVER successfully land a probe on Venus and transmit data from the surface. Ultimately, The harsh surface environment proved too much for the sensitive probes to withstand. The longest duration any of them survived for was only 127 minutes, which is still impressive if you think about all of the variables that had to be overcome.

Perhaps the most odd of all of the oddities of the planet Venus, is that unlike its siblings, it spins on its axis clockwise, making it the only planet in the solar system that spins on in retrograde. We don't have a great understanding of why Venus does this, but most scientists speculate that the planet possibly collided with another celestial body during its early evolutionary process. Much the same way as it is speculated that a collision between Earth and a theoretical planet named "Thea" was the catalyst for the formation of our moon.

Not only does Venus rotate clockwise, it also rotates incredibly slowly. It creates one full rotation once every 243 Earth days, while it orbits the sun in 225 Earth days

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