What color is Venus? (Beginner)

I have looked at a lot of pictures of Venus but they are all different colors. Do you know what color Venus really is?

Good question. Most pictures of Venus have some sort of false color to bring out details. Astronomers do this a lot when they want to make certain features or information more obvious. If we looked at Venus with our eyes above the atmosphere, we would see a really bright white-yellowish ball with essentially no features. Some pictures of the atmosphere show dark sideways V-shaped bands. These pictures were taking in ultraviolet light to show some cloud patterns, so we wouldn't see it like that in reality.

If we traveled down through the atmosphere to the surface, we would probably see brownish-red colored rocks. The rocks are probably similar to volcanic rocks here on Earth, but the thick atmopshere blocks a lot of light making the surface kind of dim with a reddish tinge. The bright red/orange pictures of the surface that you see associated with the NASA Magellan project are probably more red than what you would see if you were actually there. For example, if you look at this color picture of the surface, taken by a Russian spacecraft you can see it looks reddish. If you brought the rocks back to Earth light they would probably have a slightly different color, but they're reddish on Venus.

Also, some pictures of the surface are false rainbow-colored. These pictures show altitude information. Blue represents low areas and red and white are high altitudes.

About the Author

Lynn Carter

Lynn uses radar astronomy to study the planets, especially Venus. She got her PhD in Astronomy from Cornell in Summer 2004 and is now working at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. on the Mars Express radar.

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