-Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at The Ohio State University, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of "Your Place in the Universe." Sutter contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
We've got a lot of air, more liquid water than we know what to do with, a nice strong planetary magnetic field that protects us cosmic radiation, and nice strong gravity that keeps our muscles strong and our bones thick.
All things considered, Earth is pretty nice.
But still, we look to our planetary neighbors for places to visit and maybe even live. And Mars has all the attention nowadays: it's so hot right now, with everyone practically climbing over each other's rockets to get there in to build a nice little red home.
But what about Venus? It's about the same size as the Earth and the same mass. It's actually a little bit closer than Mars. It's definitely warmer than Mars.
It's hard to not exaggerate just how bad Venus is. Seriously, imagine in your head what the worst possible planet might be, and Venus is worse than that.
Let's start with the atmosphere. If you think that the smog in LA is bad, you should take a whiff of Venus. It's almost entirely carbon dioxide and chokingly thick with an atmospheric pressure at the surface 90 times that of Earth. That's the equivalent pressure of a mile beneath our ocean waves. It's so thick that you almost have to swim through it just to move around. Only 4% of that atmosphere is nitrogen, but that's more nitrogen total than there is in the Earth's atmosphere.
And sitting on top of this are clouds made of sulfuric acid. Yikes.
Sulfuric acid clouds are highly reflective, giving Venus its characteristic brilliant shine. The clouds are so reflective, and the rest of the atmosphere so thick, that less than 3% of the sun's light that reaches Venus actually makes it down to the surface. That means that you will only vaguely be aware of the difference between day and night.
But despite that lack of sunlight, the temperature on Venus is literally hot enough to melt lead, at over 700 degrees Fahrenheit (370 degrees Celsius) on average. In some places, in the deepest valleys, the temperature reaches over 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius), which is enough for the ground itself to glow a dull red.
And speaking of day and night — Venus has one of the most peculiar rotations in the solar system. For one, it rotates backward, with the sun rising in the west and setting in the east. Second, it's incredibly slow, with one year lasting only two days.
Additionally, Venus once had plate tectonics that shut off long ago, and its crust is locked.