Sunday, April 06, 2008

Earth, Venus Once 'The Same'

It appears the key is water. Venus may have turned out to be almost exactly the same as Earth, if only it had managed to hold on to its early oceans. According to a recent Science Daily article (found by Pound360 via Slashdot), "the Earth’s twin once had significant volume of water covering the surface but it appears that these oceans were lost in a very short geological timescale."

The conclusions aren't particularly new. But the European Space Agency's Venus Express orbiter has been slowly helping to bolster them. And this week, experts are presenting some of the Venus Express' latest findings on how the second rock from the sun ended up so different than Earth.

Venus, Earth, Mars (Photo courtesy ESA)
Without the oceans, plate tectonics never developed. Without the oceans, there was no chance for life. Without the oceans and life to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, the surface of Venus is a punishing 450 degrees. The temperature by itself, "slowed or stopped geological as well as biological evolution."

Also from Science Daily, the Venus Express recently confirmed Venus has "
earth-like lightning." And starting this spring, the search for active volcanoes on Venus is kicking into "high gear."

Presently, we know there's sulfur dioxide in Venus' atmosphere, a telltale sign of volcanic activity. However, the question is, does the gas indicate recent eruptions or eruptions millions of years ago? "On Earth, sulfur compounds do not stay in the atmosphere for long," explains Science Daily. But due to Venus' brutal environment, it's possible "sulfur dioxide remains in the atmosphere because it takes such a long time to react with the surface rocks."

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.