Through the clouds LEFT: A probe releases a parachute to slow it down
as it descends towards the surface of Venus.
Finally your spaceship goes into orbit Under the murky yellow sky, a desert of
around Venus. With the rocket engines brown rock stretches in all directions.
turned off, you find yourself weightless Blues and greens – the colours of water
again. Smoggy clouds completely hide and life – are completely missing. But the
Venus’ surface, so you have no idea what might ground is far from flat. There are rolling hills,
lurk beneath. Before risking a descent into the mountain ranges and the unmistakable cone
unknown, you decide to send a space probe. shapes of volcanoes. Directly below is a huge
volcano belching smoke into the air. The crater in its
The probe’s temperature shoots up as it ploughs into peak is brimming with glowing orange lava, and
the upper atmosphere. The intense heat suggests that waterfalls of lava are cascading down its side.
Venusian air must be much more dense than Earth’s. ABOVE: If the clouds were stripped
Chemical sensors indicate that the choking air is Suddenly lightning is flashing everywhere and the probe’s away from Venus, this is what the
96 per cent carbon dioxide. camera begins to shake wildly. Its microphones pick up the planet would look like. The pale
fierce crash of thunder – yet there are no storm clouds. areas are highlands. The darker
After the probe has entered the atmosphere, the heat Soon the probe drops out of this mysterious zone of areas are flat plains that stretch
begins to fade. The probe releases a parachute to slow its lightning with no storms. for thousands of kilometres.
fall and its camera switches on. Suddenly you see thick
yellow clouds rushing upwards on your monitor. Unlike At last, the probe hits the ground with a jolt. The
Earth’s clouds of water, these are made of sulphuric acid. temperature reached a searing 475ºC (890ºF) during the
fall – much hotter than an oven – but now it’s too high
Several minutes later the probe breaks out of the clouds for the probe to measure. Venus’ surface is not just hot BELOW: This 3-D view across
ABOVE: Venus is a world of and into clear air. Now you can see all the way to the enough to fry an egg, it’s hot enough to melt your probe! Venus was generated from
volcanoes. Perhaps there are ground, but the picture is blurred by a shimmering heat Seconds later, the picture on the monitor disappears. data sent to Earth by the
‘waterfalls’ of lava on Venus, haze. As the probe falls further, the strange Venusian Magellan space probe. The
like this one on Hawaii. landscape gradually begins to clear. tall peaks are volcanoes.