What Is the Closest Planet to Earth?

By Mark Orwell

Venus is the closest planet to Earth and second closest to the sun. It was named after the Roman goddess of love and is often referred to as Earth's sister planet because of their similar size and composition. The atmosphere of Venus is filled with clouds of carbon dioxide and the surface is a dry desert. Recent mapping of the surface of Venus reveals it to be a relatively young planet that once was and currently is riddled with volcanoes.


The land mass of Venus is in two parts that have been labeled as continents. Ishtar Terra lies to the north of the crater and is named for the Babylonian god of love. Aphrodite Terra is to the south and is named after the Greek goddess of love. There is evidence that an ocean once existed on Venus, though it has been evaporated long since then. The surface, as a result, is dry and humid and there is evidence of a vast number of volcanoes, including 167 giant volcanoes that span more than 100 km in diameter.


The overall diameter of Venus is 0.949 times the size of the Earth. This means it is just a hair smaller in the grand scheme of things. As for the mass of Venus, it is 81.5 percent that of the Earth. The unique rock formations, known as ferras, that run along the surface of the planet are roughly 20 to 50 km across, flat and shaped like a pancake. On the northern land mass of Ishtar Terra is Maxwell Montes, the highest mountain on Venus, which stands at 11 km above surface level.


Venus has a number of unique features that makes it a distinctive mark on the solar system. Besides its incredibly volcanic surface, which was likely caused by a lack of movement among tectonic plates, it has a thick cloud covering of sulfur dioxide. This reflects much of the sunlight it receives, which means its surface is not well lit. There is an abundance of greenhouse gases in Venus' atmosphere, which makes it the hottest planet in the solar system because of massive amounts of heat that get trapped between the clouds and the surface.

Time Frame

Venus is closer to the sun than the Earth, so it takes less time to complete one rotation around, which equals about 224.64 days. It also makes the closest pass to Earth, with the closest distance between them being 41 million km. This is called the position of "inferior conjunction" and it occurs once every 584 days. Despite its quick orbit around the sun, Venus has the slowest rotation of any planet. It makes one full rotation every 243 days, which means it takes longer to do so than it does to orbit the sun.


There has been talk about Venus' potential as a future colonization spot. Because of the intense heat and pressure on the surface of the planet, current technology would not be able to create a permanent colony, though many scientists do believe that future floating cities could be built. Because the conditions of the atmosphere about 50 km from the surface are more similar to Earth's, they theorize it would be possible to create a long-standing settlement there, as well as fly manned aircrafts into the atmosphere of Venus in future space missions.