Venus Resources

Feature | September 28, 2020

Introduction

This page showcases our resources for those interested in learning more about Venus. It includes activities that can be done at home as well as videos, animations, stories, and articles.

On this page:

Videos & Animations

  • Learn why NASA studies volcanoes and how volcanoes on Earth can teach us about volcanoes on other worlds in our solar system. Discover how to make your own volcano erupt at home as well!

  • Volcanoes play a role in how Earth looks today. Thanks to a variety of NASA missions, we know more about volcanoes in our solar system, and by studying them, we can learn about the interior properties of planets and moons.

  • Discover how much we have yet to learn about Venus, our “sister” planet, and about what this planet might tell us about Earth’s past.

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS)

  • Explore these animations which show the evolution of Venus’s landscape over time.

  • Venus has an “electric wind” strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere. This action may have played a significant role in stripping Venus of its oceans. Learn how an “electric wind” can strip Earth-like planets of oceans and atmospheres in this video.

  • By studying Venus, scientists can learn a great deal about exoplanets, as well as the past, present, and possible future of Earth.

  • A look at how future missions to Venus will use modern sensors and spacecraft that could establish the planet as a window on the universe.

Activities

  • Make a Volcano

    Explore how volcanoes can form on different planets in our solar system by creating your very own out of play dough, baking soda, and vinegar!

    Activity extension:

    We know that lava behaves strangely on Venus because the planet’s extremely thick atmosphere causes crushing surface pressure. We can simulate this concept by asking whether there is a difference if the play dough lava flows are really thick or really thin (the successive eruptions should construct a different-looking volcano based on play dough flow thickness).

    • For example, by placing a book or other semi-heavy object on top of the activity set-up (to simulate Venus’s crushing surface pressure), you can compare how the “lava” flows when it is free to move without the book/other object weighing it down versus how it moves with the heavier object on top.
    • You can also just use your hands to flatten the play dough into thin lava flows versus thick lava flows.
    • The weight of the overlying object could also be gradually increased. For example, start with a notebook and gradually increase to something as heavy as a thick textbook. This demonstrates how important planetary atmospheres are when it comes to how far lava is able to flow on planetary surfaces and the shapes it forms. This is something that we don’t have to worry about too much on Mars because its atmosphere is so thin (and even Earth’s atmosphere is thin compared to Venus’s).
  • Planet Phases: Why Does Venus Look Like the Moon?

    Ever wonder why we see phases of Venus and Mercury when looking through telescopes (in addition to phases of the Moon)? This activity helps to explain why!

    Note: This activity is written for a public engagement event but can be easily adapted to an at-home activity.

Stories

Ancient Sister of Earth

Venus, our nearby “sister” planet, beckons today as a compelling target for exploration that may connect the objects in our own solar system to those discovered around nearby stars (called exoplanets). Building, but incomplete, evidence suggests that Venus may have harbored oceans as recently as 1 billion years ago, yet today is uninhabitable. Thus, Venus may offer glimpses of Earth’s distant past, while holding insights into our own planet’s environmental destiny.

Venus and its massive, chemically complex atmosphere, extremely hot surface (860°F or 460°C), and mysterious mountainous regions entice us to return to this planet to unravel its untold secrets. Future missions of exploration to Venus will connect Earth and Mars to our sister world and arm scientists with perspectives needed to understand how ocean-bearing planets evolve, potentially fostering life.

Because Venus is hot enough to melt lead (instead of mud puddles, Venus would have lead puddles), and its atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine, planning for a future mission to this planet has its challenges. Scientists and engineers have to think carefully about which types of space vehicles to send (airborne versus rover versus orbiter), as each type needs to fulfill specific requirements if the probe is to survive.

NASA Goddard Team Selected to Design Concept for Probe of Mysterious Venus Atmosphere

Image of DAVINCI spacecraft descent
During its 63-minute descent, DAVINCI would collect and return measurements of Venus. atmospheric composition.

DAVINCI+ is a proposed NASA Discovery mission that could one day fly the first U.S. spacecraft since 1978 to study the atmosphere of Venus. The spacecraft, which would consist of both an orbiter and a probe, is named after the visionary Renaissance artist and scientist Leonardo da Vinci and stands for Deep Atmosphere of Venus Investigation of Noble Gases, Chemistry, & Imaging, Plus.

VERITAS: Exploring the Deep Truths of Venus

Artist's concept of an active volcano on Venus
An artist's concept of active volcanos on Venus, depicting a subduction zone where the foreground crust plunges into the planet's interior at the topographic trench. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Peter Rubin

VERITAS is under consideration to become the next NASA Discovery mission, and if selected, would reveal the inner workings of Earth’s mysterious “sister” planet Venus. VERITAS is short for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography & Spectroscopy.

Volcanoes on Venus

image of Maat Mons on Venus
Maat Mons is displayed in this computer generated three-dimensional perspective of the surface of Venus.

Evidence abounds that volcanoes dot the solar system. Venus is one place where these phenomena exist, and Venusian volcanoes could even be active today. One thing about Venus that is unique to Venus is that some lavas are incredibly thick (half a kilometer high) and some are likely very thin (a centimeter thick). On Venus, the thickest lava flows make pancake domes while the thinnest lava flows make braided stream-like formations, similar to water running down a street.

Articles