Venus: The Morning Star
June 08, 2012
When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher took some time out of each day to read to us. Sometimes, it was fiction. Sometimes, it was nonfiction. Sometimes, we hung on her every word. Sometimes, it was all we could do to stay awake. One day, she shared a book about Venus, the second-closest planet to the sun. Suffice it to say, I was intrigued, and for good reason. Venus really is a beautiful little oddity. My brief classroom introduction wound up fueling a desire to learn anything and everything I could about the marvels that lay beyond Earth's atmosphere.
So what's so great about Venus?
- It's not named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty for nothing. Venus' atmosphere is a lot denser than Earth's. It's made up of nitrogen and carbon dioxide and is layered in clouds that are made out of sulfuric acid. While the atmosphere's composition makes Venus a bad place for advanced life-forms, the coloration it creates is breathtakingly beautiful.
- Venus is actually hotter than Mercury even though it's further from the sun; this despite the fact that Venus' cloud cover reflects nearly 75% of the sun's rays. The reason? The cloud cover creates a "greenhouse effect" that traps heat. Some scientists argue that Venus was actually more earth-like at one point in its history. Over time, climate change altered its landscape. Climate change might have been driven by extensive volcanic activity, although this is still being investigated.
- Venus does something none of the other planets in our solar system do. It rotates clockwise rather than counter-clockwise. It also takes longer to make a full rotation than Earth does. One day on Venus is equivalent to 243 earth days! It revolves around the sun once every 225 earth days though, making its day longer than its year.
- Unlike Earth, Mars, and the Moon, Venus has very few impact craters. The theory is that volcanism on the surface has constantly reshaped the planet, smoothing out the places where it's been hit by asteroids and other space debris.
- Venus is called both "The Morning Star" and "The Evening Star" because it reaches its peak brightness during these times. It's one of the more constant and easier to spot heavenly bodies, and appears as a very bright star. Most telescopes can show some detail of the planet's surface.
On June 6th, Venus went into transit, passing between the Earth and the Sun. This won't happen again until 2117.
Interested in catching a glimpse of Venus or other astronomic spectacles this summer? Check out this helpful events calendar. It looks like we have a couple meteor showers to look forward to!
North Independence Branch