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Moon and Venus

February 27, 2011

You just never know what the weather will bring at this time of year -- from brilliant sunshine to thunderstorms, chilly fog, and even blizzards.

Uncertainty about the weather isn't a problem on our closest planetary neighbor, though. On Venus, it's always hot and dry.

The planet's dense atmosphere of carbon dioxide traps heat from the Sun, roasting Venus's surface like the inside of an oven. Temperatures are close to 900 degrees Fahrenheit across the entire planet -- day and night, from pole to pole.

The atmosphere is quite dense, too, so the pressure is the same as you'd find at a depth of about 3,000 feet in Earth's oceans. And even though winds on Venus don't appear to blow at more than a few miles an hour, the thickness of the atmosphere would make it all but impossible to move against them -- it would be like trying to move upstream against a strong river.

The atmosphere is topped by thick clouds across the entire planet. So even though Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth is, broad daylight wouldn't be very bright. And the clouds give the sky a dull orange glow.

And at night, the ground might glow orange, too -- heated to temperatures hot enough to melt lead by the predictable weather on our neighbor world.

Look for Venus in the eastern sky before dawn right now. It's the "morning star." Tomorrow, it's to the lower left of the crescent Moon. We'll have more about Venus and the Moon tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010


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