Shrouded in mystery
Venus, the second planet from the sun, is named for the Roman goddess of beauty and love.
While eerily beautiful, the surface of Venus is as hostile as the deepest recesses of space. Wrapped in thick clouds of sulfuric acid, the planet's surface simmers under a seemingly impenetrable atmosphere, yet the planet once boasted an Earth-like atmosphere millions of years ago.
The planet remains largely a mystery, though Japan's Akatuski mission is slowly pulling back the veil. Akatuski, which means "dawn" in Japanese, launched in 2010 and entered Venus' orbit in 2015. The mission is studying weather patterns, confirming the presence of lightning in thick clouds and searching for signs of active volcanism.
We still have a lot to learn about our closest planet neighbor in our solar system, shown here as a montage minus dwarf planet Pluto.
Editor's note: This gallery has been updated since it was published in January 2011.