Venus is the second planet from the Sun and the sixth largest. Venus’ orbit is the most nearly circular of that of any planet, with an eccentricity of less than 1%.
orbit: 108,200,000 km (0.72 AU) from Sun
diameter: 12,103.6 km
mass: 4.869e24 kg
Venus (Greek: Aphrodite; Babylonian: Ishtar) is the goddess of love and beauty. The planet is so named probably because it is the brightest of the planets known to the ancients. (With a few exceptions, the surface features on Venus are named for female figures.)
Venus has been known since prehistoric times. It is the brightest object in the sky except for the Sun and the Moon. Like Mercury, it was popularly thought to be two separate bodies: Eosphorus as the morning star and Hesperus as the evening star, but the Greek astronomers knew better.
Since Venus is an inferior planet, it shows phases when viewed with a telescope from the perspective of Earth. Galileo’s observation of this phenomenon was important evidence in favor of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory of the solar system.
The first spacecraft to visit Venus was Mariner 2 in 1962. It was subsequently visited by many others (more than 20 in all so far), including Pioneer Venus and the Soviet Venera 7 the first spacecraft to land on another planet, and Venera 9 which returned the first photographs of the surface. Most recently, the orbiting US spacecraft Magellan produced detailed maps of Venus’ surface using radar.