Venus Resources

By Staci L. Tiedeken, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Feature | September 9, 2021

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:

Highlights

Videos & Animations

  • An overview of the DAVINCI mission through the eyes of the descent probe.

  • On June 2, 2021, NASA selected the DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-gases, Chemistry and Imaging) mission as part of its Discovery program. Learn more about this exciting mission in this video.

  • 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.

  • Venus, our planetary neighbor, is a hot, hellish unforgiving world. Learn about the two bold new missions (DAVINCI and VERITAS) that NASA has selected to study this inferno-like planet.

  • 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.

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?

    Did you know that Mercury and Venus have phases just like Earth’s 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.

  • Comparing Planetary Gases

    Learn about the differences between the atmospheres of Venus, Earth, and Mars by using jellybeans or colored cotton balls to represent the gases in each planet’s atmosphere.

    Note: This activity is written for a classroom setting 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. DAVINCI and VERITAS, NASA's future missions 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.

Onward to Venus!

Venus

On June 2, 2021, NASA selected two new missions to explore Venus: DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble-gases, Chemistry and Imaging) and VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy). Part of NASA’s Discovery Program, these missions aim to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world when it has so many other characteristics similar to ours – and may have been the first habitable world in the solar system, complete with an ocean and Earth-like climate.

DAVINCI will measure the composition of Venus’ atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved, as well as determine whether the planet ever had an ocean. VERITAS will map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and understand why it developed so differently than Earth. These complementary missions are expected to launch in the 2028-2030 timeframe and represent a new age of Venus exploration.

On June 10, 2021, Venus gained another future explorer when the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the selection of EnVision to make detailed observations of Venus. As a key partner in the mission, NASA is providing the Synthetic Aperture Radar, called VenSAR, to make high-resolution measurements of the planet’s surface features.

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

  • The quest to understand our solar system begins close to home. Volcanoes around the world help researchers interpret evidence of volcanic activity on other worlds in our solar system, including Venus. Getting to know Earth’s volcanoes helps us understand how and when volcanoes erupt on other planets and moons.

  • Volcanoes expose the pulse of many planets and moons, offering clues to how these bodies evolved from chemical soups to the complex systems of gases and rocks we see today. Unearthing these clues is what motivates planetary scientists to venture to such inhospitable places on Earth as smoldering lava fields and glacier-covered volcanoes.

Other Resources