You’d be forgiven for thinking that the hottest planet would be the one that is closest to the sun, Mercury. It makes the most sense, after all, given how hot the sun is.
However, the winner of that esteemed title is the second planet from the sun, Venus. Venus massively overshadows the smaller Mercury in terms of temperature, and in this article, we are going to be exploring why that is.
In order to do this, we should first gain an understanding of the comparison in their temperatures, comparing them with temperatures we are familiar with here on Earth.
It will then also be helpful to think of the formation of Venus and whether that contributes to the overall temperature. Keep on reading to find out more.
What is the temperature of Venus compared to the other planets?
The surface temperature on Venus is thought to be around 880 degrees Fahrenheit. This is around 471 degrees Celsius for you metric folk.
To compare it with a temperature here on Earth, the hottest temperature ever recorded is thought to be 134.1 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley, California in 1913. This is around 56.7 degrees Celsius.
Given how long ago this temperature was recorded, many experts now believe this to be inaccurate. That being said, a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in 2020 in the same place, which is equally as jaw-droppingly hot!
Of course, those record temperatures are not the norm here on earth, and on average, the surface temperature is thought to be between 57 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This does, of course, fluctuate, and global warming has an impact on figures such as these, but what we do know is that they are a world away from those temperatures felt on venus.
The temperatures experienced on Venus, then, are just unimaginable here on Earth. As a contrast, Mercury is almost as hot as venus, but this planet just falls short by 80 degrees.
The surface temperature is thought to be around 800 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 430 degrees Celsius.
Again, this is a revelation to many people who have understandably assumed that Mercury would be hotter than Venus as it is closer to the sun. we will be exploring why this is in the next section.
What makes Venus so hot?
So, now we know for sure that Venus is, on average, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than Mercury. Considering it is further away from the sun, this fact may be surprising to many people.
However, there are some very logical and understandable explanations behind this, and we are going to be exploring them in this section. First, let’s take a look at Venus’ formation and how it was created.
Around 4.5 billion years ago, the powerful force of gravity pulled together gases from the atmosphere and dust and rocks to create the planet we now call Venus. It is a terrestrial planet meaning it has a solid surface, mantle, crust, and core.
Here on earth, Venus can often be seen in the night sky, looking like a very bright star. This white starlike appearance is not because the planet itself is white, but because of the thick clouds that surround the planet and reflect sunlight.
Sounds like a pretty normal planet so far, right? Well, the thing that makes Venus so special is that it is surrounded by an extremely thick atmosphere. Those thick clouds we just discussed? Well, they are not just any old clouds…
The dense atmosphere of this planet is chock full of gasses...and we all know what happens when gasses get trapped, don’t we? No, the planet doesn’t have to force out a fart or break wind….
What we are referring to is the greenhouse effect. This is where the trapped gasses can not escape from the atmosphere. The dense gases create an atmosphere around Venus, and in doing so they can create more heat.
The heat of the planet and the gasses together stay within the atmosphere of the planet, bouncing back onto the surface and heating things up on Venus itself. The gasses, namely carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid clouds, trap heat at various points in the atmosphere of the planet.
The atmosphere is made up of many layers, all of which have different temperatures. There is a layer around 30 miles away from the surface of Venus that is said to have temperatures that are similar to those on the surface of the earth, demonstrating just how varied these atmospheric temperatures are.
The innermost layers of the atmosphere around Venus are likely to be the hottest, and this is what keeps the heat of the surface of Venus so high. It is so dense, in fact, that it is comparable with being one mile underwater here on earth!
There’s no wonder it’s so hot there with an atmosphere as heavy as that. In fact, this greenhouse effect keeps Venus hot enough to turn lead into a puddle of molten metal!
It is for this reason that there has not been much exploration done of the planet because any crafts that enter it are destroyed relatively quickly.
This greenhouse effect means that the heat Venus receives from the sun gets trapped, whereas, on Mercury, there is nothing to trap the heat and so more heat can escape naturally from the planet. This results in Venus becoming hotter overall and earning its reputation as the hottest planet in our solar system.
As we hope you can see by now, the answer to the question of why Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system lies in the atmosphere that surrounds it.
The dense atmosphere is made up of sulfuric acid clouds and carbon dioxide. This traps any heat it receives creating a greenhouse effect.
This is what makes the temperature so much hotter than Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. one thing is for sure, if a planet is so hot that it can melt lead, we are pretty happy that we are not able to visit it!