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Friday, August 30, 2013

Venus: A Hostile Planet

It has been over one year since we witnessed Venus travelling in front of the Sun. We had an event last year to observe this rare phenomenon. Did you come?

Venus spotted in front of Science Centre's entrance.

Venus spotted in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

In these few months we can observe Venus when we look towards the western sky. Often mistaken for a star, Venus appears as a very bright speck in the sky. It is so bright that it can actually cast shadows on Earth. 

Here are some short facts about Venus:
  • It is Earth's Twin Sister. It is the closest planet to Earth, and similar to Earth in terms of size and mass.
  • It is the only planet in the Solar System that is named after a female figure.
  • On Venus, a day is longer than a year. One Venusian day is 243 Earth days, and one Venusian year is 224.7 Earth days.
  • It is the hottest planet in the Solar System. The average surface temperature on Venus is 462 °C.
The last statement comes from the fact that Venus is shrouded by a thick atmosphere which consists of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. These gases form highly reflective clouds, preventing us from observing the Venus surface directly. In other words, the pictures we see are actually the Venusian atmosphere instead of the surface. Active volcanic activities happen on the surface of Venus, as evident in the radar image below. These make Venus an extremely hostile place for us to go!

Venus. The surface is obscured by thick clouds. (Wikipedia)

Craters on the surface of Venus. (Wikipedia)

Fortunately for us Earthlings, we can observe Venus from a safe distance (1.7 x 10^8 kilometres, or 17 followed by 7 zeros). Around 7pm to 9pm, we can observe Venus now until end of November. Look towards the Western sky and say hello to Venus! Science Centre Observatory opens every Friday from 7:45pm to 10pm, come and join us!




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