Earth to Venus distance
|Average Distance||170.54 million||105.97 million||1.14||9.45|
|254 million||158 million||1.69||14.12|
|Maximum Distance||261 million||162.18 million||1.75||14.5|
|Minimum Distance||38.2 million||23.74 million||0.26||2.12|
Distance from Earth to Venus/planets
|Average Distance from Earth to||kilometers and miles|
|Moon||384403 km (239,200 mi)|
|Sun||149.6 million km (93 million mi)|
|Mercury||155 million km (96 million mi)|
|Venus||170 million km (106 million mi)|
|Mars||254 million km (158 million mi)|
|Jupiter||787 million km (489 million mi)|
|Saturn||1.43 billion km (890 million mi)|
|Uranus||2.88 billion km (1.79 billion mi)|
|Nuptune||4.5 billion km (2.79 billion mi)|
|Pluto||6.09 billion km (3.78 billion mi)|
Venus and Earth are similar in size, mass, density, composition, and gravity. There, however, the similarities end. Venus is covered by a thick, rapidly spinning atmosphere, creating a scorched world with temperatures hot enough to melt lead and surface pressure 90 times that of Earth. Because of its proximity to Earth and the way its clouds reflect sunlight, Venus appears to be the brightest planet in the sky. Although we cannot normally see through Venus’ thick atmosphere, NASA’s Magellan mission to Venus during the early 1990s used radar to image 98 percent of the surface, and the Galileo spacecraft used infrared mapping to view mid-level cloud structure as it passed by Venus in 1990 on the way to Jupiter. Like Mercury, Venus can be seen periodically passing across the face of the Sun. These “transits” of Venus occur in pairs with more than a century separating each pair. Since the telescope was invented, transits were observed in 1631, 1639; 1761, 1769; and 1874, 1882. On June 8, 2004, astronomers worldwide saw the tiny dot of Venus crawl across the Sun; the second in this pair of early 21st-century transits occurs June 6, 2012.
The atmosphere consists mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets. Only trace amounts of water have been detected in the atmosphere. The thick atmosphere traps the Sun’s heat, resulting in surface temperatures higher than 470 degrees Celsius (880 degrees Fahrenheit). Probes that have landed on Venus have not survived more than a few hours before being destroyed by the incredible temperatures. Sulfur compounds are abundant in Venus’ clouds. The corrosive chemistry and dense, moving atmosphere cause significant surface weathering and erosion.
The Venusian year (orbital period) is about 225 Earth days long, while the planet’s rotation period is 243 Earth days, making a Venus day about 117 Earth days long. Venus rotates retrograde (east to west) compared with Earth’s prograde (west to east) rotation. Seen from Venus, the Sun would rise in the west and set in the east. As Venus moves forward in its solar orbit while slowly rotating “backwards” on its axis, the top level of cloud layers zips around the planet every four Earth days, driven by hurricane-force winds traveling at about 360 kilometers (224 miles) per hour. The wind speeds within the clouds decrease with cloud height, and winds at the surface are estimated to be just a few kilometers per hour. How this atmospheric “super-rotation” forms and is maintained continues to be a topic of scientific investigation.
Atmospheric lightning bursts, long suspected by scientists, were finally confirmed in 2007 by the European Venus Express orbiter. On Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, lightning is associated with water clouds, but on Venus, it is associated with clouds of sulfuric acid. Radar images of the surface show wind streaks and sand dunes. Craters smaller than 1.5 to 2 kilometers (0.9 to 1.2 miles) across do not exist on Venus, because small meteors burn up in the dense atmosphere before they can reach the surface.
It is thought that Venus was completely resurfaced by volcanic activity 300 to 500 million years ago. More than 1,000 volcanoes or volcanic centers larger than 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter dot the surface. Volcanic flows have produced long, sinuous channels extending for hundreds of kilometers. Venus has two large highland areas — Ishtar Terra, about the size of Australia, in the north polar region; and Aphrodite Terra, about the size of South America, straddling the equator and extending for almost 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles). Maxwell Montes, the highest mountain on Venus and comparable to Mount Everest on Earth, is at the eastern edge of Ishtar Terra. Venus has an iron core that is approximately 3,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) in radius. Venus has no global magnetic field — though its core iron content is similar to that of Earth, Venus rotates too slowly to generate the type of magnetic field that Earth has