Hell's planet Venus may have had a perfectly habitable environment for 2 to 3 billion years after the planet was formed, suggesting that life would have enough time to appear there, according to a new study.
In 1978, NASA's Pioneer Spacecraft Venus found evidence that the planet once had shallow oceans on its surface. Since then, several missions have explored the surface and atmosphere of the planet, revealing new details about how it has transitioned from a "Earth-like" planet to the hot, hellish place it is today.
It is believed that Venus may have been a moderate planet hosting liquid water for 2 to 3 billion years before the massive recovery event of about 700 million years ago triggered the greenhouse effect, which caused the planet's atmosphere to become incredibly thick and hot.
Related: What Would It Be Like To Live On Venus?
Researchers at NASA's Godard Space Research Institute have shared a series of five simulations that show what the environment of Venus would look like based on different levels of water coverage.
All five of the simulations suggested that Venus could maintain stable temperatures ranging from a low of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) to a high of 1
"Our hypothesis is that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years," said Michael Way, one of the study's researchers, in a statement. "It is possible that the global resurrection event may be responsible for its transformation from a Earth-like climate to the hellish hot house we see today."
Under stable climatic conditions, Venus could maintain liquid water and possibly allow to make life appear. In fact, if the planet did not survive the resurrection event, it could still be habitable to this day, the researchers said.
However, the occurrence event triggered a series of incidents that led to the release or exceedance of carbon dioxide in the rocks of the planet. As a result, the atmosphere of Venus became too thick and hot for life to survive.
The creation of various simulations involved the adaptation of a 3D model with a general circulation that took into account atmospheric compositions as they were 4.2 billion years ago and 715 million years ago, as today. The model also takes into account the gradual increase in solar radiation as the sun warms throughout its life.
In addition, three of the five scenarios suggest that the topography of Venus is similar to today's. In these scenarios, the ocean ranges from shallow depths of about 30 feet (10 meters) to about 1000 feet (310 meters), with little water locked in the soil.
In comparison, the researchers also consider a scenario where the topography of the planet was similar to that of Earth with an ocean 1000 feet (310 m) deep, and a scenario in which the entire surface of Venus was covered in 500 feet deep (158 m) ocean, according to
"At the moment, Venus has almost twice the amount of solar radiation we have on Earth. However, in all the scenarios we have modeled, we have found that Venus can still maintain surface temperatures subject to liquid water, "Way said in a statement. However, "something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and could not be re-absorbed by the rocks."
Beginning 4.2 billion years ago, shortly after the planet was formed, Venus would have undergone a period of rapid cooling. With the development of the planet, silicate rocks would slowly absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it into the crust of the planet.
Until 715 million years ago, the atmosphere of Venus would probably have been dominated by nitrogen with traces of carbon dioxide and methane – just like Earth today. The simulations suggest that these conditions could remain stable until now if a large-scale nasty event did not occur.
Although the exact cause of the extinction event is not yet known, it may be related to the volcanic activity of the planet. As magma and molten rock bubbled to the surface of the planet, large amounts of carbon dioxide would be released back into the atmosphere. If magma hardens before it reaches the surface, it would create a barrier and prevent gas from being reabsorbed, the researchers say.
Similar events have happened in Earth's past. For example, Siberian traps are one of the largest known volcanic events in the last 500 million years. The event released toxic amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and caused mass extinction, the researchers said.
"We need more missions to study Venus and gain a more thorough understanding of its history and evolution," says Way. "However, our models show that there is a real possibility that Venus was habitable and radically different from the Venus we see today. This opens up all kinds of consequences for exoplanets found in the" Venus zone ", which may actually host the liquid waters and temperate climates. "
Their findings were presented at the Joint Meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Planetary Sciences Division (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society in Geneva on September 20.
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