Earth to Venus distance
    Earth to Venus distance km miles AU Light minutes
    Average Distance 170.54 million 105.97 million 1.14 9.45
    Current Distance (May 2017) 66.5 million 41.3 million 0.44 3.7
    Maximum Distance 261 million 162.18 million 1.75 14.5
    Minimum Distance 38.2 million 23.74 million 0.26 2.12
    Venus to planets & Sun
    Distance km miles AU Light minutes
    Venus to Sun Distance 108.2 million 67.2 million 0.72 6
    Venus to Mercury Distance 117 million 72.4 million 0.78 6.48
    Venus to Earth Distance 170.54 million 105.97 million 1.14 9.45
    Venus to Mars Distance 242 million 150 million 1.62 13.5
    Venus to Jupiter Distance 783 million 487 million 5.23 43.5
    Venus to Saturn Distance 1.43 billion 889 million 9.56 79.5
    Venus to Uranus Distance 2.88 billion 1.79 billion 19.2 160
    Venus to Neptune Distance 4.5 billion 2.7 billion 30.1 250
    Venus to Pluto Distance 6.09 billion 3.79 billion 40.7 338.5

    More Facts

    Venus is the second planet in distance from the Sun, but the hottest planet in the solar system (hotter than Mercury). Its hellish surface has broiling temperatures that make rocks glow red under a crushing atmosphere that shrouds the planet in thick layers of clouds. Venus is nearly the same size as Earth, but takes 243 days to rotate on its axis in the opposite direction. It also lacks a magnetic field and a moon. Why conditions on Venus and Earth are so different remains a major puzzle for planetary scientists. Venus circles the Sun at a distance of 108 million km (67 million mi) in a little over seven months (about 225 days). The planet was named for Venus, the Roman goddess of beauty. Except for the Sun and the Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky. It is often called the morning star when it appears in the east at sunrise, and the evening star when it is in the west at sunset. In ancient times the evening star was called Hesperus and the morning star Phosphorus, Eosphoros, or Lucifer. When viewed through a telescope, Venus exhibits phases like the Moon. This effect occurs because Venus orbits closer to the Sun than Earth does. An observer on Earth can see Venus illuminated from the side and from behind as well as face-on—planets further away from the Sun than Earth only show a nearly fully lit, face-on view toward our planet. The phases of Venus were one of the proofs that the 17th-century astronomer Galileo used to show that Earth itself orbits the Sun. Maximum brilliance (a stellar magnitude of -4.4, 15 times as bright as the brightest star) is seen in the crescent phase when the planet is closer to Earth. Venus’s full phase appears smaller and dimmer because it occurs when the planet is on the far side of the Sun from Earth. The phases and positions of Venus in the sky repeat every 1.6 years (see Time; Year). Transits of Venus (when the planet moves across the face of the Sun as seen from Earth) are rare, occurring in pairs at intervals of a little more than a century. The most recent transit occurred in 2004. The second transit of the pair will be in 2012. The next pair of transits will occur in 2117 and 2125. The thick cover of clouds around Venus meant that earlier generations of astronomers using telescopes had little information about conditions on the surface. Some researchers speculated that Venus might be a lush tropical world or an ocean planet drenched by thick rain clouds. Other scientists predicted a dry desert swept by dust storms, or with petroleum seas. The first clues that conditions on Venus might be extremely hot came from microwave observations in 1956. Earth-based radar studies in the 1960s discovered the planet’s slow retrograde rotation. It would take space probes to provide much more detailed information. Venus orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 108 million km (67 million mi), or 0.7233 astronomical units (AU). An AU is equal to the average distance between Earth and the Sun, or about 150 million km (93 million mi). Venus is the nearest planet to Earth in distance at about 41 million km (25.4 million mi) away at its closest approach. Venus circles the Sun once every 224.7 days in a counterclockwise direction, the same direction as the other planets in the solar system. Its axis is nearly vertical and its orbit is nearly circular so Venus does not experience seasons the way Earth and Mars do because of their more tilted axes and more elliptical orbits. Venus rotates very slowly, once every 243 Earth days. Venus’s rotation is retrograde, which means that the planet turns clockwise (from east to west) as seen looking down on its north pole. Earth and most other planets turn counterclockwise (from west to east). Venus’s counterclockwise orbit and slow, clockwise rotation combine to make the periods of day and night on the planet very different from its 243-day period of rotation (called a sidereal day). A full solar day on Venus—the time when the Sun next passes the noon point in the sky—is 116.8 days long. Viewed from a spot on the equator of Venus, the Sun rises in the west and takes 58.4 days to cross the sky until it sets in the east. Night also lasts 58.4 days. Venus’s sidereal day (one complete rotation on its axis) is longer than its year (224.7 days), but the planet experiences almost two complete solar days per orbit around the Sun. On Earth, the solar day (24 hr) is four minutes longer than the sidereal day (23 hr 56 min) to add our planet’s extra counterclockwise orbital motion around the Sun to its counterclockwise rotation. As a result Earth counts 365 solar days and 366.2 sidereal days in a year. Although Venus is 30 percent closer to the Sun and receives about twice the amount of sunlight that Earth does, its thick clouds reflect back about 76 percent of the Sun’s energy. Only 10 percent of the Sun’s energy penetrates the clouds to reach the surface. Nonetheless, Venus has the hottest surface of any planet in the solar system because of its atmosphere. The atmosphere of the planet consists of 97 percent carbon dioxide (CO2) and is so thick that the surface pressure is 96 bars (compared with 1 bar on Earth). The surface temperature on Venus varies little from place to place and is extremely hot, about 462°C (736 K/864°F), or hot enough to melt lead. (The average surface temperature of Earth is about 15°C (288 K/59°F).) The high surface temperature is explained by an intense greenhouse effect. Even though only a small percentage of the solar energy that falls on Venus reaches the surface, the planet stays hot because the thick CO2 atmosphere prevents the energy from escaping. Carbon dioxide is a very efficient “greenhouse” gas that has been linked to global warming on Earth, where the gas makes up only about 0.035 percent of the atmosphere. That nearly all of Venus’s atmosphere is CO2 is not as strange as it might seem; in fact, the crust of Earth contains almost as much CO2 chemically bound in the form of limestone, a mineral that forms in the presence of water. About 3 percent of the Venusian atmosphere is nitrogen gas (N2). By contrast, 78 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen. The actual amount of nitrogen molecules in the atmospheres of both planets is virtually the same, however. Water and water vapor are extremely rare on Venus. Many scientists argue that Venus, being closer to the Sun, was subjected to a so-called runaway greenhouse effect, which caused any oceans to evaporate into the atmosphere. The hydrogen atoms of the water molecules could have been lost to space and the oxygen atoms to the crust. Another possibility is that Venus had very little water to begin with. Cloud particles on Venus mostly consist of concentrated sulfuric acid. Earth’s atmosphere also contains a very thin haze of sulfuric acid particles in the stratosphere. On Earth, however, sulfuric acid does not build up because rain carries it down to react with surface materials. On Venus the acid evaporates at the cloud base, which lies about 50 km (31 mi) above the surface, and so remains in the atmosphere. The upper parts of the clouds, visible from Earth and from Pioneer Venus 1, extend as haze 70 to 80 km (44 to 50 mi) above the surface. The clouds contain a pale yellow impurity, better detected at near-ultraviolet wavelengths. Variations in the sulfur dioxide content of the atmosphere may indicate active volcanism on the planet. Some evidence suggests that lightning may occur in the atmosphere. A possible source might be electrically charged sulfuric acid droplets, but most researchers are not in favor of this idea. Certain cloud patterns and weather features that can be discerned in the cloud tops give some information about complex wind motion in the atmosphere. The upper-level winds circle the planet at 360 km/h (225 mph), making a complete rotation in only four days. These winds are said to super-rotate because they travel much faster than the rotation of the planet itself. These high-speed winds cover the planet completely, blowing toward the west at virtually every latitude from equator to pole. The motions of descending probes, however, have shown that the bulk of Venus’s tremendously dense atmosphere, closer to the planet’s surface, is almost stagnant. From the surface up to 10 km (6 mi) altitude, wind speeds are only about 3 to 18 km/h (2 to 11 mph). The high-speed winds probably result from the transfer of momentum from Venus’s slow-moving, massive lower atmosphere to higher altitudes where the atmosphere is less massive, so that the same momentum results in a much higher velocity. Data from the Venus Express and other space probes have revealed that a double vortex forms at both poles of Venus—two huge hurricane-like structures that rotate very slowly side-by-side. Sinking air at the poles may create the double spinning systems, which have a complex vertical structure that scientists are only beginning to understand. The upper atmosphere and ionosphere were studied in great detail by Pioneer Venus 1, which passed through them once each day. On Earth this region is very hot; on Venus it is not, even though Venus is closer to the Sun. Surprisingly, on the night side of Venus the upper atmosphere is extremely cold. (Day-side temperatures are 40°C/104°F, compared to night-side temperatures of -170°C/-274°F.) Scientists believe that strong winds blow from the day side toward the near vacuum that is caused by the low temperatures on the night side. Such winds would carry along light gases, such as hydrogen and helium, which are concentrated in a night-side “bulge.” On Earth the ionosphere is isolated from the solar wind (a flow of charged particles from the Sun) by the magnetosphere, the magnetic envelope created by the dynamo effect of Earth’s rotating core. Earth’s magnetosphere deflects charged particles from the Sun, although some particles can strike the atmosphere at the poles to create auroras. Venus lacks a magnetic field of its own, but the solar wind seems to generate an induced magnetosphere around the planet by interacting with the ionosphere. This magnetosphere is similar to ones created around comets. Because Venus and Earth are so similar in size, they are sometimes called twin planets. Venus is only slightly smaller and less dense than Earth. Its radius is 6,052 km (3,760 mi) and its average density is 5.2 g/cm³. The planet’s surface gravity is nine-tenths as strong as surface gravity on Earth; an object that weighs 10 kg on Earth would weigh 9 kg on Venus. It is clear from data collected by space probes, however, that the geological processes that shaped the surfaces of both planets are different. Blocked by thick clouds, the surface features on Venus can only be studied by radar or by special infrared detectors. The first maps of Venus were made by radar on Earth. Curiously, the periods of Venus’s orbit and rotation cause the same side of the planet to always face Earth when the two planets are closest. At such times, the side facing Earth can be viewed and mapped by Earth-based radar. In contrast to the very large antenna needed for Earth-based radar mapping of Venus, a modest instrument on Pioneer Venus 1 was able to conduct a nearly global survey. Combined with data from the Soviet probes, the Magellan orbiter, and Earth-based radar, the survey shows that the surface of Venus is primarily a rolling plain interrupted by two continent-sized highland areas, which have been named Ishtar Terra and Aphrodite Terra after two manifestations of the goddess Venus. Aphrodite Terra, although not as high as Ishtar Terra, extends nearly halfway around the equatorial region; it occupies the planet’s far side as viewed from Earth at closest approach. The more powerful radar aboard the Magellan spacecraft has revealed huge volcanoes, large solidified lava flows, and a large array of meteorite craters. The largest impact crater is almost 300 km (190 mi) across—the smallest about 5 km (3 mi). Although the probe’s radar could resolve even smaller craters, if any were present, Venus’s dense atmosphere apparently prevents smaller meteorites from impacting the surface of the planet. It is believed that all craters older than about 500 million years have been obliterated, while the more recent ones show little sign of modification. The global survey and other probes have also revealed evidence that a great deal of tectonic activity has taken place on Venus, at least in the past. Such evidence includes ridges, canyons, a troughlike depression that extends across 1,400 km (870 mi) of the surface, and a gigantic volcanic cone whose base is more than 700 km (435 mi) wide. The Soviet probes sent back photographs of the areas in which they set down, and also measured the natural radioactivity of the rocks. The radioactivity resembles that of granite and strongly suggests that the material of Venus is differentiated, or chemically separated, by volcanic activity. Angular rocks that are visible in the Soviet pictures also suggest the existence of geologic activity that would counteract the forces of erosion. Because the size and density of Venus and Earth are so similar, scientists think the two planets originated in the same way. Like Earth, Venus formed about 4.6 billion years ago out of the spinning disk of dust and debris that surrounded the newborn Sun. The materials accreted (clumped together) to form larger and larger objects called planetesimals, resulting in bodies with sizes between those of the Moon and Mars. A number of these bodies with similar or intersecting orbits eventually collided and merged to form both Venus and Earth at difference distances from the Sun. The earliest history of Venus was probably very similar to that of Earth. However, impacts from leftover Moon or Mars-size bodies in the inner solar system could have given Venus its odd, extremely slow, backward (clockwise) rotation. One or more of these impacts may have created a moon or moons for Venus, much the same way that our Moon is thought to have formed from a giant impact with Earth. Some theories suggest that Venus’s ancient moon or moons eventually crashed back into the planet, reversing its original faster counterclockwise rotation. Scientists are not certain if Venus had large amounts water like Earth after it formed or if it has always been dry. In the wet scenario, Venus may have had oceans and an atmosphere similar to the early Earth for millions of years. Because it received more sunlight, Venus began to heat up, increasing the water vapor in the atmosphere. Water vapor is an extremely efficient greenhouse gas. The planet eventually suffered a runaway greenhouse effect that raised its surface temperature to a point where the oceans boiled away entirely. Ultraviolet light from the Sun then broke down the water vapor in the atmosphere into hydrogen and oxygen. The light hydrogen atoms escaped into space, carried off by the solar wind, while the oxygen atoms reacted with minerals in the crust. With most of the water lost, carbon dioxide could not combine with water to form carbonate rocks as it had on Earth. The massive amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere added to the greenhouse effect begun by the nearly vanished water vapor. Studies of the impact craters on the surface have led some scientists to propose that the entire surface of the Venus melted and reformed in a planet-wide eruption around 500 million years ago—no older impact craters have been identified. Such a global event may have happened a number of times during the history of Venus. Unlike the constant tectonic plate movement and volcanic activity that gradually reshapes Earth’s crust, Venus may undergo rare but catastrophic tectonic processes that resurface the entire crust all at once. Venus’s complete cloud cover and deep atmosphere make it difficult to study from Earth. Most knowledge of the planet has been obtained through the use of space vehicles, particularly those carrying probes that descend through the atmosphere. The first flyby was that of Mariner 2, launched by the United States in 1962, followed by Mariner 5 in 1967 and Mariner 10 in 1974. The former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics developed several entry probes, some combined with flybys or orbiters: Venera 4 and 5 (1967), 6 (1969), 7 (1970), 8 (1972), 9 and 10 (1975), 11 and 12 (1978), 13 and 14 (1981), and 15 and 16 (1983); Vega 1 and 2, sent toward Halley’s comet in 1984, also flew by Venus and released descent capsules. Several of these probes successfully reached the planet’s surface. The United States sent two Pioneer Venus missions in 1978. Pioneer Venus 2 sent four probes to the surface, while the remaining craft explored the upper atmosphere. Pioneer Venus 1, an orbiter, measured the upper atmosphere for 14 years. The Magellan probe, launched toward Venus in 1989, transmitted radar images of the planet from 1990 to 1994. Other spacecraft have made flybys of Venus to use its gravity to change their orbits around the Sun. The Galileo probe flew by Venus in 1990 to gain energy to reach Jupiter. The Cassini probe made flybys of Venus in 1998 and 1999 for gravitational boosts to reach Saturn. NASA’s MESSENGER probe, however, is using three passes by Venus to lose energy so the craft can enter orbit around the inner planet Mercury in 2011. All of these probes have also gathered data about Venus on their flybys. In 2005 the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Venus Express spacecraft on a mission to Venus. The spacecraft began orbiting Venus in 2006. It is equipped with instruments designed to study the structure, chemistry, and dynamics of the planet’s atmosphere, particularly its hurricane-force winds and its cloud system. The Venus Express also carried the first infrared instrument designed to study the planet’s surface at infrared wavelengths, making it possible to detect active volcanoes if they exist. The extreme conditions on Venus make it highly unlikely that humans will ever set foot on the planet—there are no current plans for manned exploration. If humans ever reached Venus, they would weigh about the same as on Earth but would otherwise find a totally alien world requiring heavy protection from heat and pressure. The stifling atmosphere is so dense that even a slow breeze would feel like a tremendous gust. Although nighttime would last for over 58 days, it would not be dark—the entire rocky landscape would glow a dull red like the burner on an electric stove. During the daytime, the Sun would be only faintly visible through the dense clouds that give the entire surface a dull, yellow-orange cast. At higher elevations, particles of heavy metals might fall like snow. Venus may be the closest thing in the solar system to the way humans have imagined hell.