Skies of Venus unveiled, pictures from our planetary neighbor’s surface in new detail.

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Image of Venus’s atmosphere, taken from high orbit.

Charles "Logan" Rutledge, Writer/editor

 

We all know how the weather can sometimes be disagreeable, from getting drenched in a surprise rainstorm without an umbrella or a wind gust so fast it steals your hat, even a lightning strike that gets too close for comfort. Now, imagine the clouds rain down sulphuric acid instead of water, winds that reach over 225 mph on average, and constant volcanic activity alongside an eternal lightning storm. You may be thinking that these are the conditions for a post apocalyptic fantasy, but what if I told you this exact scenario is happening as we speak, only a few dozen million miles away on average?

Welcome to the hellscape of Venus, the second closest planet to the sun, and third most earth like planet in the solar system. Scientists estimate that the planet has a gravitational strength at 8.87 m/s^2 , only a 0.93 m/s^2 difference between Venus and Earth. The math describes the gravitational strength of Venus, meaning that a 150 pound person weighs about 136 pounds on the planet.

 Venus has a rotational cycle of about 116 Earth days and 18 hours and an orbital period of about 225 days, so if you lived there your birthday would be every other day. The atmosphere of Venus is made up of mostly carbon dioxide and nitrogen, with trace amounts of various other elements, most notably large amounts of sulphur dioxide, which forms into sulphuric acid in it’s clouds, meaning if you didn’t dissolve in the rain, your lungs would have liquified.

It’s common knowledge that we often send probes to the other planets in our solar system, and Venus is no exception. So far, the United States, Soviet Union, and European Space Agency have sent 22 probes to Venus for study, some of which landed on the surface. Although we have hi-res images and maps of Venus’s topography, the only true images we have directly from the surface were made by the Soviet Union’s Verena probes #9, 10, 13 and 14. Somewhat recently, Ted Stryk, a philosophy professor with an interest in planetary science at Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has reconstructed the panoramas sent by the Verena probes with data provided by the Russian Academy of Sciences.  The reconstructed images reveal a landscape of grey sand and cracked black slate below a sulphuric yellow sky. It can be theorized that the landscape depicted may have similarities to what earth looked like early in its history, before oceans formed and the first microbes developed. Some scientists also believe that Venus may have more closely resembled Earth at one point in time, before Venus experienced catastrophic climate change and geological activity, forming the eternal acidic landscape we see today. 

Split panorama of Venus’s surface taken by the Verena 13 probe, reconstructed by Ted Stryk

Even with all we know about Venus today, there are still many unknowns about the planet, suck as how it can maintain its atmosphere with it’s weak magnetic field this close to the sun. New information comes out about our nearest planetary neighbors comes out every few days now, and with the advancement of technology and more public interest in space, we grow ever closer to fully researching and even visiting our neighbor worlds.