What is Venus’s atmosphere made of?


Venus might be named after the goddess of beauty, but in reality it’s a hellish planet of scalding temperatures and crushing pressures, largely as a result of an atmosphere that’s mainly made up of toxic, choking carbon dioxide. This heavy gas comprises 96.5 per cent of the Venusian atmosphere, with nitrogen accounting for most of the remaining 3.5 per cent and other gases reduced to tiny traces. Just like on Earth (where it only accounts for 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere), carbon dioxide acts as a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping heat near the surface of Venus and creating searing temperatures of around 470 degrees Celsius (880 degrees Fahrenheit). As if that wasn’t bad enough, the brilliant clouds that make Venus look so beautiful are actually made of corrosive sulphuric acid!

Answered by Giles Sparrow