What color is Venus?

What color is Venus?

Venus is the second planet in our solar system and named after the Greek goddess of love.  In the sky, Venus looks like just another bright star. Even if you could get close up to the planet, all you would see is a massive cloud cover. The answer to Venus’ color depends on whose eyes you are looking through.

We have been fascinated with Venus throughout our history. At one time, many thought that there were people living on Venus. Based on the Greek mythology, some thought it was a planet populated by just women. Today we know that is not true. Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system and does not support life.

Venus the planetThere have been quite a few missions flown to Venus to try to uncover and see what lies below that clouds of toxic carbon dioxide. Even flying by, the planet looks like a yellowish white ball, using the light spectrum that humans see with. Thanks to the missions, we have found out that the clouds themselves are made of carbon dioxide, hiding a surface that is made of sulfur dioxide. The greenhouse gas effect of the clouds hold the heat to the surface so that it can’t escape into space. This is the reason that Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system. The clouds actually ‘rain’ droplets of sulfuric acid, which would be deadly to any life on earth.

The get a real view of the color of Venus, planetary scientists had to try to take pictures of Venus using light wavelengths that are different than the ones we use to see.  They experimented with various wavelengths and found that each one would cause Venus to appear in a different color shade.  Ultraviolet wavelengths gave them the chance to actually see the cloud cover and its movement across the planet.

The Soviet mission Venera 13 was the only mission to actually reach the surface of Venus. While it lasted just a short time, it did have enough time to take and send color photographs of Venus back to earth. Using the same wavelength that we use to see ,the surface of the planet is a stark reddish brown.  This is thought to be the left over remainders of the volcanic actions that occurred during the planet’s creation.

Using human eyes, looking at Venus as it floats in space, would show that the color is a yellowish white. Close up on the planet we would see the reddish-brown surface. Almost all of the pictures that have been taken of Venus have had the colors enhanced so that the scientists can see more details. The NASA Magellan project used radar to map the planet’s surface and these images had extra colors added to them to show the difference between the mountains and flat areas.

The real answer to the question depends on the light spectrum.  From a human standpoint, we would have to say yellowish white with a dull reddish brown surface.  Scientists have all pretty much agreed that this should be the color that we use to describe Venus, and any other colors are used only to show the chemical makeup of the planet as well as the lay of the land.