Scientists Discovered That Venus Used to Have an Earth-Like Atmosphere
While there are already plans to colonize Mars by 2024, some scientists are looking at Earth’s other neighbor, or rather twin sister, Venus. Considered to be the brightest object in the night sky, Venus was named after the goddess of beauty and love. It is 261 million miles away from the blue planet, with Earth to Mars at 225 million km.
Venus is called the twin sister of Earth as both are similar in size and materials composition. However, they greatly differ in terms of environment as the former is unable to harbour life due to the greenhouse effect it has in its atmosphere. Actually, Venus, being the third planet from the sun, receives more sunlight than earth. And with its sulfuric clouds and extreme heat, even lead would melt above its surface. The average temperature in Venus is at 462 °C or 863 °F, a couple of hundred times hotter than on Earth. The planet’s atmosphere is also much denser than Earth, making it hard for life to thrive above ground..
The voyage of Venera
While NASA was busy eyeing to conquer the red planet, the Soviet Union was eyeing the yellow planet Venus. A string of unmanned missions to Venus happened between 1970-1981 through the Venera missions. The Venera satellites were the only known man-made objects to have successfully landed on Venus soil. It was also the only mission to have sent back data to Earth showing clear and colored shots of Venus’ ground.
Based on a post from Popular Science, there were seven Venera missions, and most of them were equipped with cameras to take photos of the Venusian terrain. All the missions successfully landed on the hostile environment of Venus. However, one or both lens caps on the cameras failed to separate. Data was transmitted successfully to Earth but the images were only partial. The data transmissions also only lasted for minutes before losing contact (most likely due to the damage dealt by the temperatures and atmospheric pressure in Venus.) The photos transmitted though, were actually quite clear and impressive, making it easy to distinguish the volcanic and rocky surface of the planet.
Venera Missions from 1970-1981
|Mission||Date of Launch||Data Transmission (in minutes)||Photo taken?|
|Venera 7||Aug. 17, 1970||23 mins||No|
|Venera 8||Mar. 27, 1972||63 mins||No|
|Venera 9||June 8, 1975||?||Yes|
|Venera 10||Oct. 25, 1975||65 mins||Yes|
|Venera 11||Dec. 25, 1978||?||Yes|
|Venera 12||Dec. 21, 1975||?||Yes|
|Venera 13||Oct. 30, 1981||127 mins||Yes|
|Venera 14||Nov. 4, 1981||57 mins||Yes|
Life on Venus?
The Venera missions gave a glimpse of what Venus is like underneath its thick clouds. And it also confirmed the likelihood of not finding life on the planet. But today, scientists are claiming that just like Mars, life used to thrive in Venus billions of years ago. In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, Venus appeared to have been actually habitable billions of years ago when the Sun was 30 percent dimmer.
The research done in NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies used a more complex computer model in analyzing Venus’ ancient atmosphere. It appeared that the atmosphere of Venus used to be more habitable for life forms, with cloud formations blocking off the sun’s rays and preventing the evaporation of water from the atmosphere. The planet’s slow rotation was also a factor as when the planet was made to rotate faster in the computer model, the results showed that the planet’s temperature rose.
Though the barren planet today no longer holds potential signs of life, astronomers look into the computer model of Venus’ atmosphere as a gauge on how to assess exoplanets. Using the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, scientists are putting their attention to cooler stars with planets that revolve closer to them like Venus.