WTF Fun Fact 12783 – The Rotation of Venus

The rotation of Venus on its axis is very slow.

For those who need a refresher in astronomy, the planets in our solar system rotate in two ways 1) on their axis (spinning in place, basically – which makes one day), and 2) around the sun (which makes a year).

What’s unique about the rotation of Venus?

Planets rotate around the sun with regularity, but when it comes to spinning on their own axis, that’s a different story. And astrophysicists have long wondered why Venus’ rotation is so slow.

According to Space.com (cited below): “Venus orbits the sun at about two-thirds of the distance between our planet and the star. Shrouded in a dense and toxic atmosphere of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid, the planet suffers from a runaway greenhouse effect that pushes temperatures on its surface to life-preventing 900 degrees Fahrenheit (475 degrees Celsius). And something else is odd about this world: While Venus completes its orbit around the sun in 225 Earth days, it takes 243 Earth days for the planet to spin around its axis.”

Why Venus take so long?

But that still doesn’t answer the question about why Venus is so slow to rotate on its axis. However, a study in Nature Astronomy by astrophysicist Stephen Kane at the University of California gives us some new insight. Kane believes that the planet’s thick, stormy atmosphere interferes with axial rotation. Venus’ atmosphere blocks the sun’s energy from leaving the planet.

Kane said in a statement: “We think of the atmosphere as a thin, almost separate layer on top of a planet that has minimal interaction with the solid planet. Venus’ powerful atmosphere teaches us that it’s a much more integrated part of the planet that affects absolutely everything, even how fast the planet rotates.”

Rethinking the role the atmosphere plays on a planet may eventually help us rethink the way we look at the solar system. In other words, we’ll have to acknowledge that not all planets can be viewed from the perspective of the way things work on Earth. Go figure.

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Source: “Why is a day on Venus longer than a year? The atmosphere may be to blame.” — Space.com

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