Was Venus Once Habitable?

When people think about the other residing planets they might think of the inhospitable, barren lands on most of them, including our outlandishly hot neighboring planet Venus. While living on Venus sounds completely improbable, recent scientific studies have suggested that maybe, not that long ago, it might have been substantial enough to have life.

Astrophysicists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City formed their hypothesis of a habitable Venus by comparing the changes of Earth and Mars in their lifetimes. With the size of Venus being relatively the same as Earth, they believed that the planet might have formed with a comparable composition.

To test the hypothesis of a habitable Venus, the scientists created 3D climate situations with topographic data from the Magellan Mission that orbited Venus from the year 1990 to 1994. They also viewed orbital parameters of present-day Venus and estimated air composition to help further understand what changes could have occurred in the past. The rotation rate of the planet is what grabbed their attention as they believe this is what may have  possibly caused the planet to have been once able to withhold life.

They believe that this is the key as Venus may have moved at a glacial rate in the past and could have  kept an average temperature of fifteen degrees Celsius. With this temperature and the way the clouds form on the planet, they think Venus might have possibly had oceans and a temperate climate for billions of years.

While this seems plausible chemically and astronomically, there have been many critics in the scientific community that do not agree with how the study was made.

“This is a very speculative, hypothetical paper,” says Mark Bullock, a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder Colorado, according to ScienceNews.org. “It doesn’t prove that Venus was habitable, but the researchers do show that conditions existed under which Venus could have maintained oceans and a temperate climate for billions of years.”

A lot of the conclusions that these scientists have made seem to be more assumptions than factual evidence. However, even with a lack of current and physical evidence, there are some already known facts that help with this study. For instance, cloud formations on Venus last longer than on Earth and can reflect sunlight enough to keep the planet balmy for a couple of billion years.

Our own Dr. Weatherford has a few words on the study as well. “The solar system is a dynamic place,” he states. “In a billion years, Earth will be too hot due to increased solar activity for liquid water to exist on Earth’s surface. Our oceans will vaporize. This study is a great example of scientists exploring questions about the past can lead to predictions for the future of our solar neighborhood.”

As for this study, future tests have been prepared to go deeper into investigating this idea. NASA has even considered sending a spacecraft somewhere around the year 2020 and currently the Japanese Akatsuki probe is studying Venus’ climate. This hypothesis makes some people wonder how the planets will change in a couple of million years.

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