Venus, Planet of Paradox

Bob Berman

Sister planet. Nearest neighbor. Goddess of love. How appealing the planet Venus sounds! 

But the strange cloudy world is actually a land of paradox and horror.

Venus' Oddities

Few who gaze longingly at Venus are aware of the planet's oddities.

  • Venus' surface never budges from about 850°F, day and night.
  • The air is suffocatingly dense, packed with 50 times greater pressure than a pressure cooker.
  • Its atmosphere provides no oxygen whatsoever.
  • Venus' day is longer than its year. Venus spins on its axis in 243 Earth-days but orbits the Sun in 225 Earth-days.
  • Its clouds are made of white sulfuric acid. Because of this, Venus is deceivingly reflective as a mirror; fully 76 percent of the sunlight gets bounced away from the shiniest planet in our solar system.
  • Beneath clouds of concentrated acid droplets lies clear compressed air that distorts everything into fun-house-mirror images.

Interestingly, the Venusian surface is brightly lit despite being eternally overcast. With illumination that equals Earth's on a cloudy day, even inexpensive disposable cameras would take correctly exposed photos there, a situation encountered on no other planet.

Of course, no budding photographer or human being is likely to go to Venus. Ever. It's touching that we named the most luminous “star” after the love goddess. For all eternity, our nearest planet—that dazzling beacon in the western sky—will tantalize with a warning label: Look but don't touch.

See our Skywatch to find out when Venus is visible in the night sky.


Adapted from an article in The 2001 Old Farmer's Almanac

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