Venus is poisonous and a super-heated for a planet that is named after a Roman goddess of love and beauty. All early missions to Venus have provided researchers with a valuable lesson: Venus is like a giant pressure cooker. Although the planet is the second closest planet to the sun, it’s considerably the hottest of the eight planets in our solar system. Its thick atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide with clouds of sulfuric acid, which traps the sun’s heat and creates a runaway greenhouse effect.
But as it turns out; it hasn’t always been this way.
In a recent research study, submitted at the 2019 Joint Meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress, Division for Planetary Sciences, States that Venus possibly had stable temperatures and was home to “fluid water” for 2 to 3 billion years. This was until more than 700 million years ago, and then a drastic transition took place that reshaped the planet and resurfaced around 80 percent of it.
“We hypothesize that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years,” says planetary scientist Michael Way from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
“It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hot-house we see today.”
This period of Earth-like climatic stability with the presence of water in Venusian oceans may have lasted for up to 3 billion years, the researchers think, based on several simulations of what the ancient planet’s climate conditions may have been like.
Across a number of hypothetical scenarios run at different points in history contemplating both deep (310-metre deep) and shallow (10-metre deep) affected oceans, and a water-world situation where an imaginary sea covered all of an ‘aquaplanet’ Venus ,the results suggest that Venus could have supported liquid water, with moderate surface temperatures on the planet of 20 to 40 degrees Celsius (68 to 104 Fahrenheit).
Image credit: Pixabay
At least, this would have been the case as far back as 4.2 billion years ago, right up until about 700 million years ago. Somewhere around that time, something mysterious has happened on Venus, and eternally since the planet has been incredibly hot, with a toxic, heat-trapping ‘greenhouse effect’ atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
“Our models show that there is a real possibility that Venus could have been habitable and radically different from the Venus we see today,” way says.
“This opens up all kinds of associations for exoplanets found in what is called the ‘Venus Zone,’ which may result in host liquid water and temperate climates.”
The findings were presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.