Your favorite blogger from Tiny Planets here to share some awesome pictures from this week. Many of you may know that the Transit of Venus took place earlier. What does this mean? Well, even I had to look that one up and ask my dear friends Bing and Bong. They showed me this awesome video by our friends at NASA:
The Transit of Venus occurs when the planet of Venus passes right between the Sun and planet Earth. When all you dears living on Earth looked up at the Sun, you would have seen a black ball passing directly across the face of the Sun. Actually, you would have needed some special glasses to do that because we all know how dangerous it is to look directly at the Sun — don’t do it!
Anyway, the reason this whole thing is so exciting is because occurs in pairs 8 years apart every 243 years. So basically we will never see something like this until 2255! I hope you didn’t miss it, but incase you did, here is a picture to show you what it looked like:
Look at how Venus passed by the sun in 2004 and then a few days ago in 2012.
Enjoy the world around you — especially these moments of a lifetime!
Look at that picture of Venus. You’re probably wondering why it’s white, right? What you’re looking at are Venus’ clouds. The clouds are made up of carbon dioxide from Venus’ atmosphere. The clouds completely cover the planet, making it really hard to see what it looks like underneath.
That thick cloud cover has created a “greenhouse effect”? What’s that? Well, it basically means that a planet’s heat doesn’t escape back into space because it’s being blocked by gases, such as carbon dioxide. So, that heat stays trapped on the planet and really heats it up. When it comes to “the greenhouse effect” on a planet, no place beats Venus.
Although Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, Venus is much hotter because of all those clouds. Venus averages a scorching 860 °F (460 °C) all year long. That’s even hotter than the oven in your kitchen gets!
In addition to the carbon dioxide atmosphere there are thick clouds of sulfur dioxide. These clouds bounce back a lot of the Sun’s light. If you were standing on the planet it would be very, very dark. Except for when there’s a lightning storms. There are lots of them on Venus and they can get really wicked.
In the past, Venus was a mystery because astronomers couldn’t see through all of the thick clouds you see in the picture. It wasn’t until 1978 that spacecraft was first launched to map Venus’ surface. Scientists used radars to make the map of Venus. Radars specialize in seeing things that we can’t see with our eyes alone. Some of Earth’s spacecraft have also dropped land rovers on the surface of Venus to take a look around.
And what do you think they found? There are a whole load of volcanoes on Venus. Scientists believe that some of those volcanoes may still be active too. There are also mountain ranges that are similar to our own. They also found a few thousand impact craters from meteors hitting the planet. The land rovers discovered coarse sand and slabs of basalt (lava rocks), just like on Earth, the Moon, and Mars.
And, best of all for you girls out there, almost all of the places on Venus are named after famous women like Aphrodite and Helen. That’s right, a whole planet dedicated to girls! So, be on the lookout for Venus every dawn and dusk, because she’s surely watching you.
Ever hear the phrase “Greenhouse Effect”? Well, we have a real life example of how it works. All you have to do is look at Venus. You’ve heard all about Venus and the really thick clouds that surround it. These sulfuric clouds swirl around Venus, keeping it cloaked in mystery.
Besides blocking our view of Venus’ surface, these clouds block outgoing heat. So the Sun can send it’s heat to Venus, but that heat doesn’t get released back into space. So the heat is trapped! When heat gets trapped it’s called “The Greenhouse Effect.”
But how does this all really work. I mean, how can heat get trapped? Well, today you’re going to find out. Best of all, there’s nothing to clean up when you’re done with this experiment. Just be careful with that jar, you don’t want it to break!
Glass jar with a lid (jelly jars work well)
A bright, sunny day
what you do
Put the jar outside in the sunshine with its mouth up and the lid off.
Put the thermometer inside with the bulb pointing down.
Wait a few minutes for the temperature to stop rising, then make a note of the temperature.
Put the thermometer inside the jar with the bulb pointing up.
Screw on the lid, and place the jar back in the sunshine with the lid down.
Wait for the temperature to stop rising. Has the temperature changed?
Your jelly jar has just done a great job of creating a mini-greenhouse effect. The air warmed by the sun is trapped by the lid of the jar. When that happens, the air grows hotter the longer it is trapped. And that’s exactly what has happened on Venus.
Very strong sunlight from the sun filters through the clouds and heats the ground. If the clouds weren’t there, the heat from the sun would escape back into space and the planet would be able to cool down. But as it stands, the clouds trap all of that heat on the surface and keep the temperature about 880 degrees! Now you know why Venus has the hottest surface in all our solar system.
I don’t know about you, but thinking about all that heat makes me want to head on over to the Tiny Planet of Nature and cool off a bit. Why don’t you join me?
Do you have a big sister? I do. Don’t tell her that I said so, but she’s a pretty good one. It’ll go to her head. Anyway, did you know that the Earth has a big sister too? Seems kind of strange, huh? I mean how can a planet have a sister? Good question. Let’s go do some investigating!
Venus is the second planet from the Sun and is named after the Roman goddess of beauty and love. (Those Greek and Roman gods sure get around, don’t you think?) Out of all of the planets in the Earth’s solar system, Venus is the one that is the most like it in size and gravity.
Like all big sisters, it likes to check up on the Earth (and play tricks too!) If you were to get up early in the morning you’d see a bright star in the sky. But don’t be fooled — that’s no star; it’s Venus! Venus is always the brighter than any star and is visible whenever the Sun is low on the horizon.
In ancient times astronomers referred to it as the “morning star” and the “evening star”. Every 584 days Venus catches up with Earth, and when it does so it changes from the “Evening star,” which you can see after sunset to the “Morning star,” which becomes visible before sunrise.
Venus sure likes to have fun with the residents of Earth. Not only has it pretended to be a star, she likes to trick earthlings into thinking of it as an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO). If Venus were a person, I’m sure she’d have a giggle fit.
Just like in any family, there are always some differences too. Major differences. For one, while it takes the Earth 365.25 days to get around the Sun, Venus has a shorter year of 224.7 days. Did you know that Venus rotates backwards? Yep, she’s the independent type, so instead of rotating from left to right (like all of the other planets in our solar system) she likes to go right to left. Don’t believe me? Then check out this video showing Venus’ rotation.
Venus is also famous for hiding behind a thick veil of clouds. Ever wonder what kind of secrets its hiding? Yeah, me too. So next week, we’re going to look beneath those clouds and see what’s going on. Are you with me? I hope so!
And before you return to your cadet duties, check out Venus’ unique rotation. Pretty cool, huh?