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Venus. Could there ever have been oceans on the planet? Research by scientists

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Venus may have been a life-supporting planet in the past, according to a new study by American scientists from the University of Chicago. According to mathematical models, on the dry and volcanic “cousin of the Earth” there may once have been watercourses and reservoirs. If so, it is possible that their existence coincided with the existence of life on Earth.

Water is present in many corners of our solar system, but usually in the form of ice or atmospheric gas. Sometimes it also comes in liquid form. In the case of Venus – a hot, dry, rocky planet – its presence was found only in trace amounts of water vapor contained in the dense atmosphere. However, researchers decided to check what the planet might have looked like in the past. The results of their analysis have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Oceans and clouds

Scientists from the University of Chicago decided to create their own climate model of Venus, based on the assumption that once on its surface there were seas and oceans that could support life. On this basis, they conducted a series of simulations assuming different filling of water reservoirs, subjecting them to three different simulations of evaporation and oxygen removal processes, so as to obtain conditions as close as possible to the present atmosphere of Venus.

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Research has determined that the hypothetical epochs in which the planet was habitable ended at least three billion years ago. Interestingly, based on the fossil record, life on Earth is believed to have begun around 3.5 to 4.5 billion years ago. The scientists’ analysis shows that the oceans on Venus could have existed in parallel with life on our planet.

Simulations showed that the maximum depth of surface water was 300 meters. The results also suggest that Venus has been uninhabitable for more than 70 percent of its history, four times longer than some previous estimates.

Planet VenusNASA/JPL-Caltech

Models and reality

The current state of knowledge about life on Venus is still not complete. Some earlier models posit that the planet could always have been an uninhabited, hot sphere with magma oceans on its surface. Because of them, over time, Venus was able to wrap itself in a thick layer of carbon dioxide, which increased the atmospheric pressure and heated the surface so much that it is hotter than Mercury. In that case, even the impacts of icy comets would not be enough to keep water afloat.

On the other hand, other models suggest that early in the solar system’s existence, when solar radiation was 30 percent weaker, Venus may have had a moderate surface temperature with a much thinner atmosphere and reservoirs of liquid water on the surface, and perhaps even oceans. In this case, their disappearance would be associated with the greenhouse effect, which caused the “boiling” of watercourses and reservoirs, and as a result, their complete evaporation.

Main photo source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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