The evidence of freely flowing water early in Mars' history is dramatic. Not only does the planet boast the largest volcanos and deepest canyons in the Solar System, it also shows evidence for the most catastrophic floods.
A microbe living on Mars would need a very, very tiny amount of water to live. It could probably live its entire life happily in 50 or 100 micro litres-- In a tiny drop of water about the size of the point of a pen. (Lynn Rothschild)
Mars is not the closest planetary neighbor to Earth but it is the most earthlike. One characteristic it shares with Earth is how polar ice caps grow and retreat with the change of seasons as Mars orbits the moon.
Evidence of widespread water erosion from early in Mars' history was found as far back as Viking orbiter imagery showing large canyon systems. (Steve Albers)
The temperature and atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low that the surface of Mars is near the triple point of water, so there are some limited areas where liquid water might briefly appear in theory, though it is generally quite rare due to the dryness. Any liquid water would evaporate in the dry air so it wouldn't last long. Liquid could exist though below the surface in certain areas. High relative humidity can occur in colder areas so condensation of water frost on the ground and water ice clouds in the atmosphere is possible. (Steve Albers)
Water ice appears to underlie much wider areas than just what appears in the permanent summer north polar cap. This is well evidenced by the recent Phoenix Lander where this was found by simply having the descent engine exhaust "sweep" away the overlying "dust" in a particularly thin area of soil. This was also supported by Mars Odyssey data. (Steve Albers)
Mars has no large moon, so its axial tilt can vary widely. As a result it is theorized that maybe 50,000 years ago a large tilt allowed more ice to show up near the equator. Remnants of this might still exist below the surface. (Steve Albers)
Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the Solar System, is three times the height of Mt. Everest (17 miles high and 373 miles wide) and as large as the state of Arizona. Its slope is so gradual hat if you stood at its base, its summit would be over the horizon. (Wes Watters/Cornell U Grad Students)
Volcanos in the northern Tharsis region are so huge they deformed the planet’s spherical shape.
Mars has the largest "canyon" in the Solar System. It's as long as the continental U.S. and hundreds of kilometers wide. Valles Marineris is long enough to stretch from California to New York - more than 4,800 km (3,000 miles). The Martian canyon is 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) deep and 320 kilometers (200 miles) wide. America's Grand Canyon is 'only' 446 kilometers (277 miles) long, 30 kilometers (18 miles) wide and its deepest point is 1,600 meters (5,250 feet). The Grand Canyon could easily fit into one of the sides of this great chasm.
If you looked up in the daytime on Mars, the sky would look very dark. This is because the atmosphere is so thin. The sky looks pinkish towards the horizon because of the red dust in the air. Twilight on Mars is blue.
Mars has no global magnetic field. If you went to Mars, you would not be able to navigate by compass. (Wes Watters/Cornell U Grad Students)
When scientists talk about liquid water on Mars in the past, they mean "fluid that contains H2O". This substance could have a pH anywhere between 0 (or less) and 14 (or more), and/or it could be very salty. (i.e., Mars water is not like the water in your faucet, a river or a lake on Earth) (Wes Watters/Cornell U Grad Students)
When Viking 2 landed in 1976 at about 45° N latitude, they scooped samples from the soil looking for signs of life. The soil was declared organic-free, hyperarid, and uninhabitable. Just in the last year we now know that if only they had dug a four inches deeper, they would have encountered an ice layer where conditions would have been totally different and perhaps led to an opposite conclusion. The irony of exploration where a few inches can make a difference is clear in this story. (Peter Smith)
The current estimates by Malin Space Science Systems personnel are that anywhere from 30 to 200 new impacts are occurring on Mars every year, somewhere on the planet. (Ken Edgett / Malin Space Science Systems, Inc.)
During a typical week on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Context Camera returns more than 200 images of Mars that cover a total area greater than California. The camera team examines each image, sometimes finding dark spots that fresh, small craters make in terrain covered with dust. Checking earlier photos of the same areas can confirm a feature is new. The team has found more than 100 fresh impact sites, mostly closer to the equator than the ones that revealed ice.
With gravity only one-third of Earth's, there's a good chance just about anyone could dunk a basketball in an NBA-regulation goal on Mars. Unfortunately, the required spacesuit might cut down on your edge.
Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons, is slowly sliding toward Mars. In about 50,000,000 million years it will either smash into the planet or break up - creating a dusty ring around the Red Planet.
Towering above the planet at 27,000 meters (88,000 feet), Olympus Mons is three times as tall as Mt. Everest, the highest point on Earth. The long dormant volcano is so enormous its base could cover the entire state of New Mexico.
If you could drive the minimum distance to Mars at an average highway speed – say 100 kph (62 mph) - it would still take more than 66 years to reach the Red Planet. A spacecraft takes about six months to get to Mars.
It takes sunlight about 4 1/3 minutes longer to get to Mars than to get to Earth.
To survive a landing on Mars, a spacecraft must shave three zeroes off its speed in only six minutes - from about 19,000 kph (12,000 mph) in space to less than 19 kph (12 mph) at the surface.
Seasonally, great dust storms occur that engulf the entire planet. The storm’s effects are dramatic, including dunes, wind streaks and wind-carved features.
There is no evidence of civilizations on Mars, and it is unlikely that there are any existing life forms, but there may be fossils of life-forms from a time when the climate was warmer and there was liquid water on the surface. (Chris McKay)
Because Mars is so much smaller and less dense than Earth, the force due to gravity at the Martian surface is only about 38 percent that on Earth. A person standing on Mars would feel as if his or her weight had decreased by 62 percent. And if that person dropped a rock, the rock would fall to the surface more slowly than the same rock would fall to Earth. (Steve Squyres)
Pluto rotates every 6½ days New Horizons they will get one Pluto day and a little more after to view and capture images of the Dwarf planet after travelling for 8.5 years to get there!
For the past 20 years Pluto has been moving away from the Sun and getting more tilted. So there are now parts of the planet, which NEVER see the sun…
Between 1988 and now Pluto’s atmosphere has doubled!
The seasons on Pluto are very complicated due to two factors. One is that the distance between Pluto and the sun changes quite a bit over the course of orbital Pluto years, so the eccentricity of the orbit results in a big change in the amount of sunlight that Pluto gets. The second factor is that Pluto’s spin axis is titled almost pointing directly towards the sun. And so depending on what time of the year it is you get a very interesting difference in the amount of sun light that the poles get. In combination these two factors give Pluto un-intuitive seasons relative: to spring, summer and fall that we’d experience here on Earth.
Depending on where Pluto is in its orbit scientists think that its atmosphere is continually expanding and contracting. As the dwarf planet gets closer to the sun the heat melts the volatile ices creating an atmosphere that would be about knee height, if you could stand on Pluto. As it moves further away again from the sun these gases condense and liquefy again. A process called sublimation. (David Paige & Will Grundy)
The Pluto telescope at Lowell Observatory was used by Clyde Tombaugh to discover Pluto in 1930. He discovered Pluto by taking photographs of the sky using this telescope and these photographs were on 14 by 17 inch gloss plates. When they were developed, he then used a very simple process of ‘spot the difference’ using an instrument called a blink comparator – to spot the moving planet! He must have been a very patient man, because this would have been a long, cold and tedious job!
Percival Lowell among other scientists and astronomers believed that there was a ninth planet out there because Uranus and Neptune both had irregular movements in their orbit, (Kevin Schindler) now that Pluto has been demoted to a dwarf planet – it’s still possible that there is still a Planet X to be found. This is controversial but one Scientist is hoping to find it - Patryk Lykawka of Kobe University in Japan. (New Scientist, 11 January 2008 by Govert Schilling)
Pluto was named by an 11 years old, English girl Venetia Burney, she was 11 years old. A call out to the public was made by Lowell Observatory for a name for the new, Ninth planet. Venetia had studied Mythology in school and said why don’t we call it Pluto? Pluto is the god of the underworld, the most distant cold region, and so her uncle sent a telegram to Lowell observatory on her behalf. Venetia Burney – Phair (married name) died at the age of 90 years old in May this year (2009).
Pluto is one of the most fascinating things in our solar system because we still have so much to learn. It’s on average 4 billion miles away; it’s so far away from the sun that it’s very cold. If you could somehow have your hand exposed out there and hit it, your hand would shatter, like an ice cube! (Kevin Schindler)
Pluto is a very enigmatic object, and we’ve never seen such a thing up close before. And so scientists have no idea what awaits us, we may well see bizarre landforms that’s going to take us years to puzzle out how they work and what they’re made out of when New Horizons gets close. (Kevin Schindler)
Observing Pluto is not a very speedy process - because Pluto’s year is about two and a half centuries on Earth, and one season on Pluto is like one scientists professional lifetime! The equinox was back in the tail end of the 1980’s so Pluto has been coming into summer ever since then and will continue to be doing so for a couple more decades. (Will Grundy)
There are three main ices on the surface of Pluto: methane, nitrogen and carbon monoxide. And the reason we know that is because these ice molecules vibrate with very particular frequency. If a photon of light that has the right energy to excite that vibration, strikes the ice it gets absorbed and if it doesn’t, it bounces off the surface. So we can see on the telescope, which ones are absorbed and which aren’t. This tells us about Pluto’s composition.
Pluto may be brownish, pinkish in colour. if you have carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and you bombard that with energetic radiation you break the bonds. These composites reorganise themselves into progressively more and more complicated chemistry, so that you would produce materials that do tend to have a reddish or pinkish colour. Pluto’s really colour might actually be closer to sort of a brownish appearance, not like a nice pink like a flower.
If you could travel to Pluto the sunlight would be a lot dimmer because its 30 times further away from the sun than we are and the intensity of sunlight falls off at the square of the distance, so it’s like a 1000 times fainter.
Life as we know it couldn’t operate at those kinds of temperatures on Pluto’s surface. But the interior of Pluto could conceivably have liquid water and some of this complicated chemistry could finds its way to the interior or started off in there. Yeah you could have habitable regions. Now the energy source deep inside Pluto wouldn’t be sunlight it would be a breakdown of radioactive elements. And that’s probably a pretty tough living to make, even for extremophiles. But people [scientists] are also talking about habitable environments inside of other icy satellites like Europa and Enceladus it does seem to be a big thing at the moment – if there is water, there could be life. (microbial!) (Will Grundy)
Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, a massive volcano in Hawaii provides some of the best astronomical observing conditions in the world. The summit of Mauna Kea is high, very dry, and clear most nights of the year.
Infrared light is often used to look at light from comets. Because the Earth’s atmosphere and clouds interfere with infrared light from astronomical objects, Mauna Kea is an ideal location for looking at very distant objects.
Comets are observed in order to determine what they are made of. Comets are interesting objects because they are remnants from the early days of the solar system, fossils from that time forgot if you will. When we observe a comet, we are looking through a window in time into the conditions in the solar nebula, the primordial stuff from which everything in the solar system formed.
There are two flavours of comet: short period and long period. The two different types, provide a glimpse into a different region during solar system formation, as well as how the material in comets may have changed over the past four-and-a-half billion years.
Many comets are being seen for the first time when being observed. Comets that we study have never been observed before using modern instruments, so every time we look at a comet, we may well see something new.
There are usually several that can be observed by amateur astronomers on any given night at visible wavelengths. The exceptionally bright ones that you can see with the naked eye are more rare and maybe come around once or twice per decade on average. These are generally long-period comets, which are discovered all the time now that we have regular and highly sensitive sky surveys in operation.
It’s only been 15 or 20 years since it was first discovered/confirmed, and there’s so many more Kuiper belt objects to be discovered, we still need to understand the overall population, how many there are, there are estimates but how many Kuiper belt objects are there? What’s the size range, how do they interact with the rest of the solar system? (Kevin Schindler)
How scientists believe the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt were formed: When the solar system formed, there was a lot of leftover debris, bits and pieces floating around that hadn’t made their way into forming a planet or a satellite. Comets are bits of this debris that likely formed at the orbit of Jupiter and beyond because that is the region where temperatures were low enough for ices that make up comets to condense. Many comets formed in the region near the giant planets (5 and 30 AU). These were tossed very far (due to the intense gravity of these planets, today used for space craft sling shots) from the inner solar system. These comets travelled out to the furthest reaches of the solar system forming the Oort Cloud, a spherically shaped region of comets about 50,000 AU from the Sun.
The other leftover bits of debris that were initially pushed around by the giant planets (but more or less stayed near the region in which they formed) and became what we call the Kuiper Belt today and the scattered disk, which span the region from roughly 30 -100 AU.
Long-period comets come from the Oort Cloud, whereas most short-period comets come from the region of the Kuiper Belt and so-called scattered disk. So because the conditions of formation, chemical compositions and temperatures were different, the further from the sun you moved through the solar system at its birth, you could consider the different bands of debris and the planets: asteroid belt, kuiper belt and Oort cloud as different geological stratigraphic layers on the horizontal plane. Comets that break free from these bands are therefore fossils that can be more easily studied when they’re closer to the Earth.
Rosetta is the first mission that will orbit a comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko), study it in detail, and land a craft on its surface. Both the orbiter and lander have many scientific instruments that will make unique measurements that will help us understand what comets are made of, how they are put together, and how they have evolved over time.
Deep Impact took detailed pictures of comet 9P/Tempel 1, showing the diverse surface geology of that comet in detail. Hitting the comet with an impactor gave information on the comet’s internal structure that could not be ascertained from images alone. Deep Impact threw up so much debris that it could not see the crater it created; however, the Stardust-NExT mission will fly past 9P/Tempel 1 in 2011 and image the crater, providing even more information on the structure of a comet.
Beer made the discovery of Neptune’s moon ‘Triton’ possible. William Lassell who spotted Triton on October 10, 1846 used the fortune he made in the brewery business to finance his telescope. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Neptune&Display=Moons
A year on Neptune takes a very long time. So long, in fact that in 2011 Neptune will complete the first full orbit of the sun since its discovery in 1846. http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/neptune_worldbook.html
Fancy some sailing? The winds on Neptune are the fastest in the Solar System, with estimated speeds up to 700 miles or 1,100 kilometers per hour. http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/neptune_worldbook.html
Neptune is the coldest planet in the Solar System. At the top of its clouds, temperatures on Neptune can dip down to 51.7 Kelvin, or -221.4 degrees Celsius. http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/neptune_worldbook.html
Neptune’s largest Moon, Triton, orbits the wrong way! It’s called a retrograde orbit and means that it orbits around the planet backwards compared to the other moons of Neptune. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Triton
With an average distance of about 1,784,860,000 miles (2,872,460,000 kilometers) from the sun, Uranus is the farthest planet that can be seen with the naked eye. http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/uranus_worldbook.html
Scientists believe that deep inside the planet, there may actually be an ocean of liquid water containing dissolved ammonia. http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/uranus_worldbook.html
Uranus lies down! Most planets are tilted at about 30 degrees, but at 98 degrees, Uranus is tilted so far on its side that its axis lies nearly level with its path around the sun. http://www.nasa.gov/worldbook/uranus_worldbook.html
Electrical activity in Jupiter is so strong that it pours billions of watts into Earth's own magnetic field every day. www2.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/Jovian.html
Saturn isn’t the only planet with rings. Jupiter actually has a diffuse ring system that was discovered by Voyager 2 in 1979. http://pds-rings.seti.org/jupiter/
Jupiter was almost a star itself – in fact if it was only 80 times more massive it’s likely that it would become a second sun in our solar system. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Jupiter&Display=Overview
The Jovian neighbourhood is a mini solar system in itself with 63 known moons orbiting the gas giant.
Jupiter’s Auroras are over 1000 times more powerful than earths southern and northern lights. They measure up to 1200 miles across! http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/galileo/hst6.html
If you were driving your car through the right remote place on earth (like a desert) at the right time, you cold actually tune in the ‘sounds of Jupiter’ on your car stereo. http://radiojove.gsfc.nasa.gov/telescope/
Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the largest in the Solar System and is actually bigger than the planet Mercury. Several other of Jupiter’s moons are larger than the former dwarf planet Pluto. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Display=Moons&Object=Jupiter
Juptier’s moon Europa is thought to have twice as much water as Earth and is considered ‘the best chance’ for the existence of extra-terrestrial life in our Solar System. http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Display=Moons&Object=Jupiter
As you admire the spectacular view of Saturn's rings through a telescope on Earth, thank the planet Neptune. It's likely that periodic tiny nudges from Neptune's gravity have gradually pushed Saturn off kilter, giving its rings the 27 degree tilt which allows us to see them much more clearly than if Saturn was upright, and the rings were always edge-on. http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/3306806.html
Saturn's rings are 170,000 miles across but only about 30 feet thick. That's the same proportions as a sheet of ordinary paper 2 miles wide. http://www.nineplanets.org/saturn.html#rings http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051110220809.htm
Saturn's moon Enceladus blasts jets of water vapor into space at the rate of a ton every six seconds, from four huge fractures near its south pole. If it had kept up this drastic weight-loss program throughout its history, it would have lost 20% of its weight since it formed.
Kargel, J., 2006, Science 311, 1389-1391.
Hansen, C. et al. 2006, Science 311, 1422-1425.
Instead of spinning smoothly on its axis like a normal world, Saturn's moon Hyperion tumbles chaotically through space. If you stood on its surface, you would never be sure where or when the sun would rise next. http://www.nineplanets.org/hyperion.html
Some past theories have suggested diamond rain can form near the center of Saturn.-Steve Albers
Saturn's weather is just as vigorous as Jupiter's, it just is shrouded in an upper atmospheric haze. --Steve Albers
Floating in a balloon in Saturn's atmosphere could be fun with only a need for oxygen. Atmospheric temperature and pressure are comfortable for people at just the right level. Possibly liquid water rain would occur at times. --Steve Albers
Titan is the world on which an unprotected human would last longest before losing consciousness and dying... (cant hold your breath on Mars/Venus) and with only a warm suit and an oxygen mask like they have on airplanes you'd be fine for days. -- Ralph Lorenz
Titan's atmosphere could have rainbows (albeit slightly different from ours). -–Ralph Lorenz
In the four years since its discovery, the amount of liquid natural gas that has evaporated from Ontario Lacus (a small, hydrocarbon lake near Titan's south pole that has the color of Colorado river water), is equal to about 1/3 of the world's proven reserves of natural gas. That amount of natural gas would equal the entire US consumption for roughly 15-20 years. --Bob Brown
Titan has more methane and other organics in absolute terms than the known biospheric, oceanic and fossil fuel reservoirs on Earth. --Jonathan Lunine
Saturn's density is so low the planet could float in water. -- Jonathan Lunine
Enceladus' geysers emit as much heat per second as Yellowstone. --Jonathan Lunine
NASA's Cassini spacecraft found evidence that lightning on Saturn is roughly one million times stronger than lightning on Earth. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-12/uoi-rpc121604.php
Saturn is unique in that its magnetic axis is almost exactly aligned with its rotational axis. That means there is no rotationally induced wobble in the magnetic field. Saturn's magnetic field has more in common with the sun than the Earth. The sun's magnetic field does not rotate as a solid body. Instead, its rotation period varies with latitude.
The radio sounds of Saturn's rotation -- resembling a heartbeat -- and other sounds of space can be heard by visiting the University of Iowa’s Space Audio web site at: http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/space-audio.
Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have found evidence that a new class of small moonlets resides within Saturn's rings. There may be as many as 10 million of these objects within one of Saturn's rings alone. The moonlets' existence could help answer the question of whether Saturn’s rings were formed through the break-up of a larger body or are the remnants of the disk of material from which Saturn and its moons formed. These moonlets are thought to be chunks of the ancient body whose breakup produced Saturn's glorious rings. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-03/ssi-cf032906.php
Scientists are using information gathered by Cassini spacecraft on its flyby of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, Enceladus to identify individual molecules in the moon's space environment, including ions and isotopes. The atoms around Enceladus are expected to hold clues to the past because they come from interior regions that have changed little since the moon was formed and provide give insight on how the solar system was formed and how it evolved. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008--‐10/uom--‐cfo100608.php
Scientists are still discovering new moons around Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft found a new Saturn moon, provisionally named S/2005 S1, that makes waves hidden in a gap in Saturn's outer A ring. Images show the tiny object in the center of the Keeler gap and the wavy patterns in the gap edges that are generated by the moon's gravitational influence. The Keeler gap is located about 250 kilometers (155 miles) inside the outer edge of the A ring, which is also the outer edge of the bright main rings. The new object is about 7 kilometers (4 miles) across and reflects about half the light falling on it -- a brightness that is typical of the particles in the nearby rings. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-05/ssi-cfn051005.php
The infrared-sensitive camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft photographed the tallest mountains ever seen on Saturn's moon, Titan. The mountain chain is nearly a mile high (1.5 kilometers), 93 miles long (150 kilometers) and 19 miles wide (30 kilometers). The mountains are topped by bright, white material which may be methane or other organic (carbon-containing) "snow." If Titan were Earth, the mountains would be at latitudes near New Zealand. They probably formed as midocean ridges form on Earth: The surface crust pulls apart, and material beneath the crust wells up through the crack, creating a ridge. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-12/uoa-cic121206.php
A strange, Mercury-like brew is buried deep within Jupiter and Saturn, liquid metal helium. Produced under the kinds of conditions present at the centers of giant, gaseous planets, and mixing with metal hydrogen it forms a liquid metal alloy. Given that a metal's key characteristic is its ability to conduct electricity, allowing electrons can flow through it like water flowing unimpeded down a riverbed, this may be give scientists a clue into why more energy is emitted from Jupiter and Saturn than they absorb from the sun and where it comes comes from. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008--‐08/uoc-‐jas080608.php
Up until the 1960’s scientists thought that Venus’s surface temperature was about the temperature of Miami, Florida. A flyby with three primitive instruments revealed that estimates were out by a factor 10, it was not 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Venus, but 900 degrees Fahrenheit! (Kevin Baines)
The extreme temperatures on Venus were soon realised to be the result of a ‘greenhouse effect’, by well-known thinkers such as Carl Sagan. (Kevin Baines)
It is thought that for the first billion years or so maybe even two billion years on Venus, that there was standing water on the surface of the planet. Some of the most recent observations made by Venus Express seem to confirm this. (Kevin Baines)
One of the main pieces of evidence is the amount of heavy water, that’s still in Venus’s atmosphere. There is a type of water molecule that is an extra neutron making it a bit heavier. If water had left the atmosphere by some means, the heavier water would be left behind, and that’s what we find on Venus. Scientists expect to find a lot of this heavy water sitting in that atmosphere when you calculate how much ‘regular’ water there must have been to leave behind thus quantity of ‘heavy’ water, it equates to about an oceans worth amount of water.
It was research into Venus’s upper atmosphere that triggered the discovery of the hole in Earth’s ozone layer. (Mark Bullock)
One of the fascinating things about Venus is that volcanism and vigorous chemical reactions between surface minerals and atmospheric gases are probably involved in climate feedbacks. Venus' climate, while almost unimaginably different from our own, is sustained and perhaps sometimes changed by these feedbacks. (Mark Bullock)
Understanding how Venus’s volcanism and chemical reactions at the surface affect the atmosphere and clouds of Venus will give us a new perspective on how feedbacks affect climate on the Earth. (Mark Bullock)
The temperatures and pressures are so high at the surface of Venus, that the visual spectrum of the rocks is altered. A striking example of this is the mineral hematite, which is a typical red iron oxide, found on Earth and Mars and probably on Venus. Iron oxides are what make Mars red and some Earth's rocks and soil red. On Venus, however, they would look gray, because the reflection properties change. (Mark Bullock)
The volcanos on the Big Island of Hawaii are similar in many ways to the giant volcanos seen on Venus, this is one of the closest places to Venus, on Earth! (Mark Bullock)
Clouds on Venus are not like those on Earth, instead of being comprised of water molecules they are primarily comprised of sulphuric acid so Venus’s atmosphere is not only incredible hot, but also very corrosive.
If it rains on Venus, it would be rain sulphuric acid, but because it’s SO hot and dry on Venus it’s likely that the raindrops evaporate before they reach the surface, you may experience a mist only if you were standing on Venus’s surface.
Mark Bullock is working on a potential 'Flagship' mission to Venus. This mission includes a large orbiter, two landers, and two very VALOR-like balloons. The final report and mission design have received a lot of attention at NASA, and they are taking it into consideration for building and launching in the 2020-2025 timeframe.
You could walk around Venus’s surface faster than it rotates! The earth rotates at about 1000 miles an hour, Venus rotates at about 4 miles an hour! You could actually keep the sun directly overhead if you kept on runner faster than the planets rotation rate. (Kevin Baines)
Venus is an incredibly windy planet. If you were able to survive the hostile environment and plunge down through Venus’s atmosphere in a spacecraft you’d experience hurricane force winds on descent to the surface and then at the surface the wind combined with the dense atmosphere and 100 bars of pressure would make walking more like wading through water, even though the wind would have dropped to around a meter per second.
Venus Express has detected the kind of static associated with cloud to cloud lightning on Venus and where there is lightning there’s also thunder! Although it might sound more like a rumble due to the thickness of the atmosphere. (Kevin Baines)
Above 5kms altitude on the mountains of Venus, there has been reflectivity recorded. The substance is thought to be a kind of heavy metal snow, possibly Tolarium snow! (Kevin Baines)
One of the biggest mysteries about Venus is how its winds are generated as the planet is rotating SO slowly, these winds may be caused by the dipole features observed at Venus’s poles! ‘Figure of eight’ shaped cyclonic features are found at both the North and South poles of Venus. It is suspected that the very hot air at the equator rises and moves towards the colder poles. Because there is so much air moving towards the poles it has to condense, making the air even denser and causing it to sink. This may create the ‘figure of eight’ and therefore the winds. (Kevin Baines)