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On Venus It Snows Metal

To add to the list of crazy things about space, is this fact: on Venus, it snows metal

Maat Mons, on Venus. Image: NASA

Space is a crazy place. It’s full of incredibly hot stars, deep cold space, black holes and supernovae. Now add this fact to the list of crazy things about space: on Venus, it snows metal.

At the very top of Venus’s mountains, beneath the thick clouds, is a layer of snow. But since it’s so hot on Venus, snow as we know it can’t exist. Instead, the snow capped mountains are capped with two types of metal: galena and bismuthinite.

Markus Hammonds at Discovery explains:

As we now understand it, the snow on Venus’ surface is probably more similar to frost. On the lower Venusian plains, temperatures reach a searing 480°C (894°F). This is hot enough that reflective pyrite minerals on the planet’s surface are vaporized, entering the atmosphere as a kind of metallic mist, leaving only the dark volcanic rocks like basalt in the Venusian lowlands.

At higher altitudes, this mist condenses, forming shiny, metallic frost on the tops of the mountains. And Earth’s simmering sibling has plenty of high altitude terrain. Maxwell Montes, the tallest peak on Venus, stands at an altitude of 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) — 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) higher than Mount Everest.

Probably not the best place to take a vacation.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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