Galileo Hubble

Galileo spacecraft and Hubble Space Telescope images.

Venus is the second closest planet to the Sun. It has no moon. It is the closest in size to the Earth. From the Earth, the planet's surface is never seen, as it is always covered by very dense layers of clouds. Through a small telescope Venus can be easily seen to have phases, like the Moon. It is very unusual for any details to be visible in the cloud structures, except for the most practiced observers.

Surface maps of Venus:

Magellan a Magellan b Magellan c

Images from Magellan orbiter's data.

The most modern information about the surface comes from the Magellan Venus orbiter. This uses radar to map the surface. It has revealed mountains, valleys, cliffs, craters and huge volcanoes, at least one of which is believed to be active.

Three-dimensional Views of the Surface of Venus:

Lakshmi Cunitz Eistla Rift

Lakshmi Planum, Gula Mons and Crater Cunitz, Eistla Regio, Eistla Regio - Rift Valley.

Details of the Surface of Venus:

Arachnoids a Arachnoids b Alpha a Alpha b Parallel

Arachnoids, Alpha Regio, Parallel Lines.

Venus has an atmosphere which, at the surface, has a pressure 90 times that of the Earth's.
Unlike the Earth's atmosphere, which is mainly composed of nitrogen and oxygen, Venus's atmosphere is made up of 97% carbon dioxide.
One consequence of the preponderance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is that Venus suffers from the severe effects of the 'greenhouse effect'. Thus, the surface of Venus is heated to a temperature of 470°C.
The clouds in the atmosphere of Venus, which obscure our view of the surface, are not composed of water droplets, as on the Earth, but are believed to be composed of droplets of sulphuric acid and particles of sulphur!

Image Credits: NASA/JPL
Caption Credits: Royal Greenwich Observatory Leaflets

These pictures' originals, excellent background texts, and larger versions of these and many other photographs of our Solar System are available at Views of the Solar System by Calvin J. Hamilton.

Updated: April 29 '97

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For background text, link to the RGO Leaflets in ARVAL - Venus

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