Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 1996 September 23 - Venus: Earth's Cloudy Twin
Explanation: If Venus weren't so cloudy it would be more similar to Earth. This picture by the Galileo spacecraft shows just how cloudy Venus is. Venus is very similar to Earth in size and mass - and so is sometimes referred to as Earth's sister planet - but Venus has a quite different climate. Venus' thick clouds and closeness to the Sun (only Mercury is closer) make it the hottest planet - much hotter than the Earth. Humans could not survive there, and no life of any sort has ever been found. When Venus is visible it is usually the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. More than 20 spacecraft have visited Venus including Venera 9, which landed on the surface, and Magellan, which used radar to peer through the clouds and make a map of the surface. This visible light picture of Venus was taken by the Galileo spacecraft now in orbit around Jupiter. Many things about Venus remain unknown, including the cause of mysterious bursts of radio waves.
APOD: 1999 November 28 - Beneath Venus' Clouds
Explanation: If the thick clouds covering Venus were removed, how would the surface appear? Using an imaging radar technique, the Magellan spacecraft was able to lift the veil from the Face of Venus and produce this spectacular high resolution image of the planet's surface. Red, in this false-color map, represents mountains, while blue represents valleys. This 3-kilometer resolution map is a composite of Magellan images compiled between 1990 and 1994. Gaps were filled in by the Earth-based Arecibo Radio Telescope. The large yellow/red area in the north is Ishtar Terra featuring Maxwell Montes, the largest mountain on Venus. The large highland regions are analogous to continents on Earth. Scientists are particularly interested in exploring the geology of Venus because of its similarity to Earth.
APOD: 1999 January 24 - A Venus Landing
Explanation: This image is part of the first color panoramic view from Venus. It was transmitted by a TV camera on the Soviet Venera 13 lander which parachuted to thesurface on March 1, 1982. Venus' clouds are composed of sulfuric acid droplets while its surface temperature is about 900 degrees Fahrenheit (482 degrees C) at an atmospheric pressure of 92 times that of sea-level on Earth. Despite these harsh conditions, the Venera 13 lander survived long enough to send back a series of images and perform an analysis of the Venusian soil. Part of the lander itself is visible in the lower right portion of the image. An earlier Soviet Venus lander,Venera 7 (1970), was the first spacecraft to return data from the surface of another planet.
Authors & editors:
& Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.