- Diameter: 12,104 km
- Mass: 0.81 of Earth
- Density: 5.243 g/cm³
- Surface Gravity: 0.90 g
- Semi-major Axis: 0.72 AU
- Orbital Period: 224 Days
- Rotational Period: 243 Days
- Axial Tilt: 2.64° Retrograde (177.36° Relative to Orbit)
- Average Surface Temperature: 462° C
- Atmospheric Pressure: 91 atm
- Notable Features: Maxwell Montes, Maat Mons, Artemis Corona
- Number of Total Missions: 42
The second planet from the Sun, the closest planetary orbit to the Earth's. As seen from the Earth, it's often the brightest point of light in the night sky in fact, if you know where to look, it can sometimes be seen even in full daylight. This brightness is partly due to how close it gets to the Earth, and partly due to its bright whitish cloud cover. Interestingly, Venus appears brightest when it's in its crescent phase, because it's much closer to the Earth at that point than it is when it's in its gibbous phase. (Venus can't be seen when it's full, of course, since the Sun is smack-dab between the Earth and the planet at that point.) Since Venus is never more than 40-some-odd degrees away from the Sun, it's most prominent right after sunset or right before sunrise, giving it the names "evening star" and "morning star" (The word for "morning star" in Latin is Lucifer. Yes, really). Venus is also the brightest planet as seen from Mercury (where, at an apparent magnitude of -7.7, it is the brightest of any planet in our Solar System as seen from the surface of another) and even Mars (-3.2), despite Earth being both larger and nearer.
The fact that Venus goes through the same phases as the Moon was the final nail in the coffin of the geocentric model of the universe. If everything revolved around the Earth, then Venus would never go past the first quarter phase, or the third quarter phase. Yet Galileo clearly saw Venus go from its first quarter phase, to its waxing gibbous phase, and then the waning gibbous phase once it was on the other side of the sun, confirming once and for all that Venus traveled from the same side of the Sun as Earth to the opposite side and back, and therefore did not and could not revolve around Earth.
Venus used to be called "Earth's twin": It's 95% as big around as the Earth, its surface gravity is 0.90 g (90% of Earth's surface gravity), it's got an atmosphere with clouds in it, it's about the same distance from the Sun. Because of this, Venus was the first actual planet to be visited by an unmanned probe; after all, what could be so different?
Unfortunately, its surface temperature turned out to be nearly 500° Celsius (900° Fahrenheit), hotter than a self-cleaning oven and able to melt lead. note The "air" consists almost entirely of carbon dioxide, and at the surface the pressure is equal to being half a mile under the ocean on Earth. And those clouds? They're not made of water vapor, they're made of sulphuric acid. What was once thought of as "Earth's Twin" turned out to be Earth's Evil Twin and a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
These rather depressing details were revealed by the Soviet Venera space probes, sent to the planet in the late 1960s. Before that time, many Science Fiction authors held out hope that Venus might harbor life. Such hope was flimsy at best even before the Venera probes, though; as early as the 1890s, spectrographs of the Cytherean atmosphere showed it to be made almost entirely of carbon dioxide, with no water vapor at all (meaning the clouds could not have been water clouds like those on Earth). Not to mention that Venus has no moon; Earth's own Moon (which is unusually large in proportion to the planet) is well known to be essential to Earth's habitability.note Although the top of the cloud layer was relatively cool, in 1962 the Mariner 2 probe revealed that the surface was several hundred degrees Celsius.
Its surface features, long hidden under the constant cloud cover, were finally mapped by NASA's Magellan space probe using radar in the 1990s. The highest mountain is Maxwell Montes, almost 11 kilometres above the average surface level. If you stood on its peak, it'd be a downright chilly 380°C* , and a mere 60 atmospheres of pressure and you'd see the Venusian equivalent of snow —lead and/or bismuth sulfide. The culprit for all this heat is the greenhouse effect Earth's atmosphere is less than 1% carbon dioxide, while Venus's is over 90% carbon dioxide. Earth started with the same amount, but it ended up trapped in carbonate rock. Venus also started with the same amount of water as the Earth had, but it remained in vapor form (300 atmospheres worth) and created a super greenhouse effect with temperatures in the thousands of degrees. note Eventually the water molecules dissociated into hydrogen and oxygen and escaped into space and sank down and fused with the rocks respectively, leaving Venus high and dry. Due to Venus being mythologically associated with femininity, by convention all geographic features there are named after women or female entities, except for Maxwell Montes and Alpha and Beta Regio. note There is some argument over whether the proper adjective is "Venusian", "Venerean", or "Cytherean" just don't use "Venereal".note
Much of Venus's surface was shaped by extensive volcanism in its past. Over 90% of its surface is covered in basalt and 65% of the planet consists of relatively flat lava plains with a few highland regions that stand out. Over 1,000 volcanoes have been identified, making Venus the planet with the most volcanoes in the Solar System. However, none of them are currently active, and none have been observed to have erupted recently —explanations include that the intense heat causes the Venusian crust to be malleable compared to Earth's one and magma gets stuck on it having difficulties to reach the surface, as it's unable to break through the crust. The state of Venus's core and whether it is geologically active is rather ambiguous since unlike The Moon, Mercury and Mars (which are all definitively considered dead or almost so), Venus's similar size to Earth should mean that it should still be geologically active today. But what throws a wrench in this theory is Venus's lack of plate tectonics and a magnetic field, which could also indicate that Venus may be geologically deadnote . So far, the only evidence that supports active volcanism on Venus is the high concentration of sulfur dioxide in its atmosphere as well as infrared hot spots observed around Maat Mons and later on others as Idunn Mons having been observed to be bright on the infrared. With Venus's hellish conditions, getting a seismometer on the surface to accurately measure Venus's interior much like Mars's InSight mission would be incredibly difficult to pull off. It does not help either that unlike for both Mars and the Moon, there're no meteoritesnote known to have come from Venus.
Also unique to Venus is that many of its volcanic features take on unusual shapes that are not seen elsewhere in the Solar System. The most common of these are shield volcanoes that form flat, pancake-like dome structures called "farra", and they can be anywhere between 10 times to 100 times larger than shield volcanoes on Earth. Another common feature are web-like structures of faults appropriately called "arachnoids" due to the fact that they resemble spider webs, and they can stretch for hundreds of kilometers in either direction. It's unknown how these features have formed in the first place.
Venus has the slowest rotation out of any planet in the Solar System, and it rotates in a clockwise direction relative to the other planets (meaning it spins backwards). It's not entirely understood why the planet came to be with such an unusual rotation, but one of the theories is that at some point in the planet's early history, a planetesimal struck it at an oblique angle, causing it to rotate very slowly backwards. However, this theory is contested because of the lack of geological evidence on the planet's surface. If such an event did happen, the global resurfacing event some 500-300 million years ago likely erased the evidence. Another more plausible theory is that Venus's original counterclockwise rotation gradually slowed because of tidal interactions with the Sun, but its dense atmosphere created an equilibrium effect to prevent it from becoming tidally locked, hence the reverse rotation. As a result of this super-slow rotation, a Cytherean solar day is longer than a Venusian year (Venus's year is 225 Earth days, its day is 243 Earth days). Not that you'd be able to see much difference between day and night while on the surface. Whether you're on the day side or the night side, you'll see a hazy overcast sky that's about the same brightness everywhere assuming you survive the lack of oxygen, the crushing pressures, and the hellish temperatures, that isnote . Yet another theory is that Venus actually isn't rotating backwards, but is rotating counterclockwise just like every other planet in the Solar System...except that one or more impacts early in its life (rather than altering the rotation) flipped Venus upside down (a more extreme version of how Uranus got flipped sideways on its axis), meaning that what we've been thinking of as Venus's north pole could actually be its south pole. This slow rotation is also responsible for the current state of Venus's atmosphere. Venus rotates far too slowly to produce a strong magnetic field, leaving the water vapor that was once in its atmosphere vulnerable to dissociation by solar radiation. If circumstances had left Venus rotating at a similar rate to Earth, its magnetic field would be nearly as strong, and then who knows what the planet would be like.
The thick cloud layer has rendered any optical observation of the surface from orbit impossible. Because of this constant obstacle, outside of images taken from the Venera landers, scientists must rely on radar imaging to peer through the clouds and make out details of what's below. Unfortunately, many images from orbit, like the famous Magellan radar map◊, are not accurate to what Venus looks like with its clouds off, since they have been colorized to bring out detail. The reason the Magellan radar maps appear yellow is simply an artistic decision on the scientists' part based on the colour of the planet's atmosphere at the surface. In reality, Venus's surface as noted above would resemble a global volcanic lava field, and at that scale would be flat black to our eyes. Even images of Venus with its clouds still on are usually wrong. Venus actually looks like this◊; but it's easy to see why that image isn't widely circulated. Any layman glancing at it would just assume it was black and white.
Well, now some optimistic stuff about Venus. There is a layer in its atmosphere where both temperature and pressure are Earthlike, located some 60 kilometers above the surface. The only non-Earthlike thing in this habitability zone is atmospheric chemistry, which is mostly CO2 with some sulfuric acid vapors; but it also means that normal Earth air will work in this atmosphere like a lifting gas, easily supporting a Cloud City. There have also been claims in 2020 about phospine, perhaps formed by life, being detected on Venus' clouds. However at the time of this writing such evidence is disputed.
Besides the Moon, Venus is also the best place in the Solar System to see our planet. From there, Earth appears as a dazzling blue star that would be at its closest much brighter than Venus seen from our planet (apparent magnitudes -6.6 vs. -4.7, respectively), large enough to appear as a disk with binoculars and even to the Mark I eyeball with sharp enough vision, and that with a telescope would give a lot of fun as weather patterns change and continents/oceans move below because of its rotation. The Moon (-2.7) would appear almost as bright as we see Jupiter (-2.94), and while looking much more dull than Earth it would contribute with still more fun for astronomers as the former orbits the latter and both bodies approached, moved away, and in some cases overlapped. Nice Alien Sky, if all those clouds were not in the middle.
And as we all know from pop-psychology, women are from there.
Venus in tropes:
Venus in media:
- Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, despite its title, has the comic duo meet space women on Venus.
- The alien in It Conquered the World came from Venus, hitching a ride to Earth on one of our military space probes.
- Immanuel Velikovsky proposed, based on his reading of certain ancient mythology, that Venus was originally spat out of Jupiter, and wandered through the inner Solar System causing the parting of the Red Sea and Joshua 10:13's sun-standing-still-in-the-sky episode, before settling into its current near-circular orbit. In fact, an object the size of Venus achieving Jovian escape velocity would require enough energy to blow Jupiter apart 200 times over.
- In Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov, Venus is an ocean planet with seas and kelp (and domed underwater cities).
- Arthur C. Clarke:
- His short story "Before Eden" (1961) recounts the tales of the first astronauts to land on Venus, who discover a carpet-like creature living there. They take pictures, then drop off their waste products and blast off. Unbeknownst to them, the creature finds their waste delectable, but has no immunity to the Earth bacteria within it and soon spreads deadly Earth germs to its entire species, wiping them all out.
- Many of Clarke's novels from the 1950s have, as part of the backdrop, Venus as a place that humans have colonized. The Deep Range, Islands in the Sky, Earthlight, etc. Many of these stories make offhanded references to the oceans of Venus and native Cytherean life.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Space Cadet, the titular cadets answer a Cytherean Distress Call. Venus is depicted as the typical swamp planet of the pre-Venera wishful-thinking days in all of Heinlein's works that mention the planet, such as the novels Between Planets, Podkayne of Mars, and The Puppet Masters; and the short stories "Logic of Empire" and "Tenderfoot on Venus".
- Pulp science fiction authors of the 1930s and 1940s who frequently used the jungle/swamp Venus in their works include Otis Adelbert Kline, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Amtor series), Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, and Leigh Brackett.
- In C. S. Lewis's Perelandra, Venus is a garden of Eden where original sin never occurred.
- In the Disney film Mars and Beyond, one scene has the narrator describe the conditions of the other planets in the Solar System besides Mars, and when he gets to Venus he says "There may be life on Venus..."
- Three episodes of The Twilight Zone (1959) feature or reference Cythereans.
- "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" has a plot primarily involving Martians giving the feeble, unassertive Mr. Luther Dingle superhuman strength, but are disappointed when he uses it purely for exhibition. When they terminate the experiment and are preparing to leave Earth, the two meet a pair of Venusians planning on running their own experiment involving superhuman intelligence. The Martians point them in the direction of Mr. Dingle.
- "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" is a much more serious use of the Alien Invasion trope. When a pair of state troopers find a crashed spaceship in a frozen lake and footprints leading to a diner, they find that they have to sort out who among the patrons is human and who's the Martian. Unfortunately for them, after the Martian being a Master of Illusion manages to trick them all into heading out across an unstable bridge, killing them off and guaranteeing that the plans for a colony on Earth will go ahead. Unfortunately for the Martian, the counterman he's bragging to reveals himself to be a Venusian and not only have they intercepted the Martian fleet, but they also have plans to colonize Earth.
- In "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby", the aliens who try to abduct Somerset Frisby have a Venusian specimen who can sing at eight different pitches simultaneously and accompanies himself with his tail.
- The 1957 B-Movie 20 Million Miles to Earth features a spaceship freshly returned from Venus that crashes into the sea near Italy. It turns out to be carrying a Cytherean embryo which, predictably, grows up into a giant reptilian monster that terrorizes Rome.
- In early issues of the Perry Rhodan series from the early 60s, Venus is described as a lush jungle world teeming with life. After initial exploration, mankind colonizes the planet. In the decades since space probes revealed the actual conditions on Venus, the planet has been mentioned only scarcely. As early as the late 80s, the planet has been described as a hellish heatworld in the series. But no in-universe explanation of the conflicting descriptions so far. In the modern reboot Perry Rhodan Neo, Venus is portrayed realistically, though it's been revealed that the Fantan have the technology to terraform Venus into an inhabitable planet.
- In 1954, Ray Bradbury wrote a short story called All Summer in a Day, about a group of school children on Venus. In his interpretation of Venus, it rains constantly, and only once every seven years does the sun shine. It was made into a 1982 TV special.
- The Lords of Creation by S.M. Stirling. In "The Sky People", an Alternate History Venus was terraformed by Precursors into a planet that fits all the Planetary Romance depictions, including dinosaurs and cave princesses in fur bikinis!
- Queen of Outer Space. Venus being the goddess of Love, Venus was naturally full of beautiful women eager to throw themselves at our straight-jawed heroes despite coming from a Lady Land.
- First Spaceship on Venus (1960) covers an expedition to Venus from Earth.
- The Soviet movie Planet of Storms (1962) tells of a Soviet expedition to a Venus populated with dinosaurs.
- Old Venus, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is an anthology of short stories written in Pre-Venera style, but by 21st century authors.
- The eighth and ninth cantos of Paradiso sing of the ghosts of lovers who have re-entered the Universe and settled on Venus for a short time.
- Wonder Woman (1942): Diana befriends Queen Desira of Venus and Paula's Space Transformer was initially built as a dedicated teleportation device between Earth and Venus. It is the planet outside of earth on which Diana spends the most time.
- Stephen King's short story I Am the Doorway concerns a manned mission to Venus that goes horribly, horribly wrong (you want an idea how wrong, look at the cover◊). Because it was written in 1971, near the beginning of the Venera program, it spans the gap between our early, speculative take on Venus and our full, horrified understanding of its true nature. Nonetheless, being King, it contains some fittingly chilling descriptions of the planet's surface that would turn out to be unwittingly prescient once the pictures came in◊.
"That was Venus. Nothing but nothing except it scared me. It was like circling a haunted house in the middle of deep space. I know how unscientific that sounds, but I was scared gutless until we got out of there. I think if our rockets hadn't gone off, I would have cut my throat on the way down. It's not like the moon. The moon is desolate but somehow antiseptic. That world we saw was utterly unlike anything that anyone has ever seen. Maybe it's a good thing that cloud cover is there. It was like a skull that's been picked clean that's the closest I can get."
- Venus Wars has a damn good Mundane Dogmatic attempt to put shirtsleeve humans on Venus; the author smacks it with a comet in juuust the right way to not only disperse most of its toxic atmosphere and speed up its rotation, but even form seas. Too bad they're acidic.
- In Night of the Living Dead (1968) a space probe returning from Venus that exploded in Earth's atmosphere releasing cosmic radiations is theorized to be the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse.
- In Contact, Dr. Arroway tells her preacher beau that Venus was what convinced her to become an astronomer:
Dr. Arroway: When I was about eight years old, I was watching the sunset, and I asked my dad, "Whats that bright star over there?", and he said that it wasnt really a star at all, but it was actually a whole planet called Venus. [points at the sky] Which should be over there soon. He said, "You know why they called it Venus? Because they thought it was so beautiful and glowing. And what they didnt know is that it was filled with deadly gases and sulfuric acid rain," and I thought, This is it, Im hooked.
- An episode of The Six Million Dollar Man features a space probe engineered to survive on the surface of Venus. It accidentally went back to Earth and embarked on a rampage of destruction.
- Charles Stross's Saturn's Children starts out in a city floating in Venus's atmosphere, then follows its Fem Bot protagonist through the rest of The Solar System.
- Schoolhouse Rock!: Interplanet Janet split for Venus, but on Venus she found she couldn't see a thing for all the clouds around.
- An episode of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage named "Heaven and Hell" features Earth and Venus in the title roles. Venus, according to Carl Sagan, is the one planet in the solar system most like Hell.
- Venus is one of the three real planets (the other two being Earth and Mars) that appear in SimEarth's scenario mode, which the player has to terraform and colonize.
- In A Miracle of Science, humanity has colonized and terraformed most of the possible planets and moons of the solar system. The terraforming on Venus isn't quite complete; the whole planet is dreary and constantly raining. The Venusian government is totalitarian and corrupt, keeping its citizens in line with threats of Martian invasion (Mars being technologically far superior to the other worlds), while allowing organized crime to run rampant. Naturally, the Mad Scientist villain sets up shop there.
- In Cowboy Bebop, like most of the other non-gaseous planets and moons of the solar system Venus has been terraformed for human habitation. Which is a good thing because Earth is no longer such a good place to live. Unlike the other planets and moons that are visited over the course of the series, the terraforming of Venus is incomplete and includes high-altitude floating cities.
- The Venus and Mars self-help books depict Venus as a utopian Pleasure Planet, where women (and maybe some effeminate men) lived, until they headed to Earth with their new Martian partners for reasons never really explained. There are parks, museums, cafes, shops, etc. The residents are sociable, intuitive, and prone to daydreaming, and (aside from a longing for the Martians of their daydreams), never really experience problems.
- In Nebula, Venus is (like the rest of the solar system) shown as an Anthropomorphic Personification. She's rather snarky, but tends to be more pragmatic and realistic than her older sister Earth.
- In Exosquad, Venus has been terraformed and inhabited by humanity. One of the main cast members, Nara Burns, was born there. Her parents and brother are all dead by the end of the series as a result of the war with the Neo-Sapiens.
- In the arcade game Solar Warrior, the second stage takes place in the planet Venus. It's depicted there as a jungle world with dinosaurs, huge insects, carnivorous plants, and of course Everything Trying to Kill You.
- In Schlock Mercenary, by the time of the comic (just shy of 3,100 CE), every planet in the Sol System that can be terraformed has been. When the Toughs visit the system, several of them call out suggestions for which world to visit, with Ennesby's being "Venus! I want to see the rain forests!"
- While Warhammer 40,000 has a lot of focus put upon "Holy Terra" and "Sacred Mars" within the Imperium of Man (with the former as the Imperium's throneworld and the latter as the headquarters of the Adeptus Mechanicus), Venus is comparatively Out of Focus, with the only real details given about it being that it was terraformed and is currently an Industrial World for the greater Imperium. Furthermore, there's only a few Cryptic Background References given to how it was before the Great Crusade, where it was dominated by "War Witches" who fielded armies of "Litho-Gholems" before they were all smashed to bits by the Emperor.
- According to The Expanse, the Tycho Corporation originally wanted to build massive floating cities in Venus' atmosphere. However, it soon became a massive legal mess between the United Nations of Earth, the Martian Congressional Republic, and Tycho itself concerning potential ownership, which eventually led to the whole project being scrapped and it becoming Tycho's Old Shame. Venus becomes significantly more important in the series, however, after the protomolecule-infected Eros Station is redirected into Venus from its original course for Earth. Eventually, after both the UN and MCR send ships to investigate the crashsite, the ships are wiped out and the protomolecule leaves Venus entirely, creating the Ring in solar orbit between Uranus and Neptune.
- The King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album Infest the Rats' Nest tells the tale of a group of rogue astronaut-refugees fleeing an apocalyptic Earth That Was, and - being too poor to afford a living on the newly-colonized Mars - they are forced to try their luck settling on Venus. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome as the agonizing conditions drive the colonists insane and ultimately lead to their demise.
- The Copper-Colored Cupids short story The Resurrection of the Wellsians picks up more or less where The War of the Worlds left off: driven out of the Earth, the Martians (referred to as Wellsians in the story) make their way to Venus. They instantly find it's even more unlivable than Mars was, crash, and spend a hundred years buried beneath the scorched Venusian ground in hibernation, until the Cupids happen to build an air-pressurized base right on top of them and dig them up.
- Venus can be visited with a planetary lander in Star Control 2. It's by far the most dangerous world of the Solar System that can be explored and can destroy an unupgraded lander very fast (and even fully upgraded ones do not last very much).
- In Safe Havens merfolk actually originated from Venus. They came to Earth when Venus began undergoing its uninhabitable climate change, and modern merfolk descend from those left behind when the rest left after deciding Earth was too dangerous.
- In Allen Steele's reconstruction of the Captain Future, the aphrodites (genetically-modified humans) inhabit Venus' upper atmosphere where conditions are tolerable enough to orbit a Space Station, using a skyhook to bring up raw materials mined by robots from the inhospitable surface. The original 1930's Pulp Magazine stories of course had Venus and every other planet in the solar system be fully habitable.
- The xkcd blog What If? did a post about how well a Cessna 172 Skyhawk would fly on various solar system bodies, among them Venus.
"Physics calculations give us an idea of what flight [on Venus] would be like. The upshot is: Your plane would fly pretty well, except it would be on fire the whole time, and then it would stop flying, and then stop being a plane."
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has the Nazis beginning to colonize Venus by building a colony that floats far up in the atmosphere. It's revealed that Adolf Hitler has taken refuge in the Venus colony.
- Kerbal Space Program has Eve, the Kerbol system's stand-in for Venus. Eve lacks the extreme hostility of Venus, to the point where Kerbals can walk around on the surface wearing a normal spacesuit, but it has a thick atmosphere and much higher gravity than Kerbin or Earth, making returning to orbit one of the game's greatest challenges. It's also purple rather than white. The planet's in-universe description also pokes fun at the people who call Venus the Earth's twin:
"It is considered by some to be almost a sister planet to Kerbin. Well, despite the purple, and the toxic atmosphere, and the extreme pressures and temperatures. Actually, it's not very similar at all, is it? Who are those people?'"
- Citadel of the Heart features various planets that stand in for Venus in regards to overall environment and hostility in regards to the backstories of a few of the Ultimorian Deities. However, the real deal itself is often the lurking domain of Ultimorian Deity Darigus. Darigus can survive within Venus or just about anywhere else in the universe for that matter; he just prefers Venus since it's one of the few places he can go out in broad daylight and still be heavily obscured due to the thick smog in Venus' atmosphere. At some point in the distant future, Darigus achieves first contact with an Earth based human, and the crew's death all involved suffocation with their equipment completely intact and safely removed as neatly as possible, and only Darigus himself knows what happens next to the bodies...