Venus Supported Life For Billion Years Before Extinction; Will Earth Follow?
Venus might have had life forms on its surface once upon a time. Back in 1978, NASA's Pioneer Venus mission reached Venus and discovered the possibility that the planet could have sustained life. Since this premier mission, several others were sent to collect information about the planet.
The Venus data shows the possibility that it could have accommodated life for roughly two to three billion years after it was formed, before turning into a hot boiling planet it is today. The scale takes us back to about 700 million years, when a greenhouse effect shocked the atmosphere and the environment, turning it dense and hot.
According to a study by Dr Way and Dr Del Genio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science, this is long enough for life to evolve and name Venus as "Earth's Sister". The study was submitted recently at the European Planetary Science Congress at Geneva, Switzerland, showcasing a new understanding of Venus' climatic history and its implications on man's search for habitable exoplanets.
Venus Having Life: Contradictions
The study states a hypothesis that Venus might have gone through a similar planet creation process like the Earth. Based on this assumption, Dr Way and Dr Del Genio state that nearly 715 million years ago, the atmosphere on Venus would have been similar to what it is on our planet right now, dominated by nitrogen and a high percentage of carbon dioxide and methane.
The cause of the gas outage remains unknown, but it could be due to a geological event. Venus could have thrown up large volumes of magma and carbon dioxide but the magma solidified before the gas could be reabsorbed. The result was the atmosphere thickened and now, it's 90 times denser than Earth's. This further shot up the greenhouse effect, the study points.
However, the new hypothesis faces a strong contradiction stating that Venus is situated too close to the Sun and beyond the star's inner habitable zone. Venus absorbs too much sunlight to maintain any liquid water. But Dr Way and Dr Del Genio continue to point that their modelled scenarios find that Venus could support surface temperature suitable for liquid water.
What This Means For Earth?
Venus underwent a massive geological event that wiped out life forms. Knowing that Venus once supported life forms with a stable climate similar to Earth indicates that the greenhouse effect could vibrate here as well. Moreover, Man's thirst to find other extraterrestrial life could be right next door. Dr Way states that more such missions are required to study Venus to understand its evolution and history. Who knows, Venus could hold a key answer to saving Earth.
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