Astronomy Picture of the Day
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September 23, 1996
Venus: Earth's Cloudy Twin
Spacecraft, JPL, NASA
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 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.
Tomorrow's picture: Beneath Venus' Clouds
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