Stargazing with Pat J: Why Humans Will Never Ever Set Foot on Mercury or Venus

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by Patricia Jeffery © 2024 of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Mercury

  • Closest planet to the Sun.
  • If our Sun is the goal post of a CFL football field, Earth would be at the two-yard line; Mercury on the 0.8-yard line.
  • Smallest planet, only slightly larger than Earth’s Moon.
  • Very faint; visible only after sunset or before sunrise.
  • Rotates on its axis in 59 days. It takes 88 days to orbit the Sun.
  • Sunlight takes three minutes to get there.
  • No moons or rings.
  • Rocky, heavily cratered surface.
  • Only two probes have ever been sent there; neither landed.
  • A blistering 430-degree Celsius during the day. A bone chilling -170-degree Celsius at night.
  • Any water or atmosphere it once possessed has long since boiled away.

Venus

  • Second planet from the Sun.
  • Using the above CFL field comparison, Venus is on the 1.4-yard line.
  • Slightly smaller than Earth.
  • Second only to our Moon in brightness.
  • Rotates on its axis in 243 days. It takes 225 days to orbit the Sun, making its year shorter than its day.
  • Takes sunlight six minutes to get there.
  • No moons or rings.
  • Unlike every other planet, Venus spins clockwise. Scientists believe this is because Venus is actually upside down; meaning the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east.
  • While it has an atmosphere, it is a poisonous concoction of carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid which has produced a runaway greenhouse effect. With an average temperature of 460-degree Celsius, Venus is hotter than Mercury, despite being further from the Sun.
  • Russia has landed several probes on the surface, but none survived more than two hours; having been crushed flat by an atmospheric pressure of 1,350 pounds per square inch, then melted by the scorching temperatures.

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