When you look at the Moon and Mercury, their surfaces are pounded with impact craters. Mars has many craters, and even Earth has its share. But what about Venus, are there craters on Venus?
There are craters on Venus, but not many. The Solar System is relatively empty now, but less than a billion years after the formation of the Solar System, there were still many objects left over. These crashed into planets and moon, during a time scientists call the late period of heavy bombardment. Many of the craters on Mercury and the Moon were formed during that time.
Strangely, Venus shows no record of the heavy bombardment period. Either it didn’t get struck, which is unlikely, or some process resurfaced the planet, removing all traces of the impact craters. The resurfacing process stopped at some time in Venus’ more recent history. And so, all the craters that scientists do see on the surface of Venus are relatively young.
Craters on Venus are different from craters on other planets. The planet’s thick atmosphere stops the smaller objects from even reaching the surface of Venus; they just burn up in the atmosphere. There are about 1000 craters identified on the surface of Venus.
Crater Mead is the largest known crater on Venus, named after the American anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It measures 280 km in diameter, and contains several concentric rings.
We have also recorded a whole episode of Astronomy Cast that’s just about planet Venus. Listen to it here, Episode 50: Venus.