Venus is the second planet away from the Sun and the closest planet to Earth. It is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon and can, in the right conditions, be seen during the day! At night, because it is so bright, it is also able to cast shadows! Venus is named after the Roman goddess of Love and Beauty although, if we look closer at Venus, at its poisonous atmosphere and deadly volcanic surface, we soon discover that there is nothing beautiful about the planet. The planet has a thick swirling cloud cover which never clears to reveal the surface. It is only through recent technology that we can see under the clouds and view Venus' landscape.
The thick clouds also mean that heat cannot escape from the planet, meaning that Venus' temperature can be 480°c, so it is the hottest planet in the Solar System, even hotter than Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun! Before astronomers discovered that Venus is a planet, people believed it to be two different stars, known as The Morning Star and The Evening Star. Earth is only 612 kilometres wider than Venus and has a similar mass, volume, pull of gravity and is about the same geological age. Because Venus is so similar in these ways, people have often called it Earth's sister planet, although there is no chance that Venus could possibly support life and no evidence yet that it has ever supported life. Its surface was reformed recently (between 200 - 600 million years ago, which is quite recent when talking about space!) by thousands of volcanic eruptions covering the surface in lava. This means that it is difficult to find out much about Venus' history like whether it ever had water flowing on the surface and whether life did exist once on the planet. Below is a computer-created picture of volcanoes which collapsed in a sea of lava below them.
Venus rotates extremely slowly, taking 243 days to turn on its axis. The planet takes 225 days to orbit around the Sun. So, a day on Venus is longer than its year! Venus is also the only planet in the Solar System to rotate clockwise (from East to West) meaning that the Sun rises in the West and settles in the East. This may suggest that Venus was once hit by an object in space which was powerful enough to disrupt its rotation. A few space missions have been attempted to land on Venus' surface, and the successful ones have even taken pictures.