The Earth-Twin Planet That Nobody Talks About

By Corey S. Powell | September 30, 2015 10:59 pm
Venus, as imaged more than two decades ago by the Magellan spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

A colorized radar map of the Maat Mons volcano on Venus, shows lava flows of unknown age, along with an apparent impact crater in the foreground. This image, created more than two decades ago by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, still represented the state of the art in our knowledge of Earth’s near-twin. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

NASA scientists were conferring today about a nearby planet that is shockingly similar to Earth. It is just 5% smaller in radius and 15% smaller in mass. It is almost the exact same age as our planet, and gets its warmth from an identical star. The only thing that’s a bit off is that it orbits a bit closer to its star than Earth does, so it receives nearly twice as much radiation. On the other, it also reflects away a lot of that radiation. Its theoretical (equilibrium) temperature is just below freezing, so with a little natural greenhouse warming it would be quite an inviting place.

If we found it orbiting another star, this world would surely be hailed as the most Earthlike exoplanet known: the best place yet to search for alien life.

No doubt you sense there is a catch, and indeed there is. The world I’m talking about is Venus. It is not orbiting another star; it is the planet closest to home right here in our own solar system. But I’m not just being coy. Despite its proximity, Venus is a profound enigma. It really should be a hospitable world, but the truth is that it is more like hell on almost-Earth. Understanding why that is–why our planet went right while Venus went terribly wrong–is crucial for finding out whether habitable planets are common or rare throughout the universe.

The ways in which Venus diverged from Earth are as dramatic as they are perplexing. Venus has a crushing atmosphere tinged with sulfuric acid clouds and dominated by carbon dioxide. It has a year-round surface temperature of about 450 degrees Celsius (850 degrees Fahrenheit), far hotter than an oven set to “broil.” It has no appreciable magnetic field to protect it from charged particles that blow out from the sun. It has no plate tectonics to renew its geology. It rotates so slowly that one “day” takes 243 Earth days, and its rotation is backwards compared to that of almost all the other planets. It has no moon.

Some of these traits may be connected. Perhaps Venus’s lack of a moon has something to do with its slow rotation. Its slow rotation, in turn, might be related to its lack of magnetic field…which in turn might be related to its thick, dry atmosphere…which in turn might be related to its lack of dynamic geology. There might be a chain reaction at work.

I’m saying “might” a lot because there is still a tremendous amount that scientists do not know about Venus. The perpetual cloud cover presents a huge challenge in studying its surface features. Even worse, landing a probe on its surface is exceedingly difficult. Atmospheric pressure on the ground is more than 90 times that at sea level on Earth, and then there are those searing temperatures, which quickly fry electronics and melt mechanical components. There is also a sense of gloom hanging over Venus, since the odds of finding anything alive there are just about zero. For these reasons, Venus has attracted a tiny fraction of the attention lavished on Mars.

Surface of Venus as seen by the Soviet Venera 14 lander, which touched down in 1982. It survived 57 minutes on the surface; no other probe has been there since. (Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences, processing by Ted Stryk)

Surface of Venus as seen by the Soviet Venera 14 lander, which touched down in 1982. The thick, cloudy atmosphere lends a ruddy cast to the scene. No other probe has been there since. (Credit: Russian Academy of Sciences, processing by Ted Stryk)

The last serious effort to map the surface of Venus was the work of NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, which circled the planet while scanning it with imaging radar. That mission concluded in 1994. The view from the ground is even more limited. The most recent Venus lander was Venera 14, which arrived in 1982. It was sent by the Soviet Union. That’s right: The last time we touched down on Venus, there was a Soviet Union.

But Venus actually has a tremendous amount to tell us about life in the universe. If researchers knew more about Venus, they could judge how likely it is that Earth-size planets around other stars would follow the same disastrous course. They would have a point of comparison for evaluating which aspects of Earth’s development were crucial to the emergence of biology. They could also investigate the great questions hanging over Earth’s wayward twin: Was it always this nasty, or did it start out hospitable before devolving to its present state? Could life have started here billions of years ago, only to get snuffed out by a relentless environmental catastrophe?

Simulated Venus radar map from the VERITAS probe shows how much it would improve on the images from Magellan. (Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech)

Simulated Venus radar map from the VERITAS probe shows how much it would improve on the imagery from Magellan. (Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech)

At long last, we may start to get some new answers. Today, NASA announced five finalists for its next midsize, Discovery-class mission. Two of them target Venus. Next year the agency will pick on winner from the group, with the intent of launching it by 2021. One of the contenders, called VERITAS [PDF link], would revisit the radar-mapping concept of Magellan, but using modern technology to yield vastly sharper images. Such views would allow a much deeper examination of Venus’s geological evolution and its current state of activity. The other concept, DAVINCI, would send a probe drifting down through the Venusian atmosphere to study its composition, sniff out signs of volcanic eruptions, and study how the thick atmosphere interacts with the super-heated surface.

There are three other intriguing and highly worthy proposals in the latest set of Discovery candidates. In a perfect world we would do them all. In our imperfect world (though still a much more pleasant world than Venus), I’d vote for VERITAS. It would mark a huge step forward in making sense of Earth’s wayward twin, and learning whether Venus or Earth is more likely to be typical of the superficially Earthlike planets now being discovered around other stars.

Follow me on Twitter for more space and astronomy news: @coreyspowell

MORE ABOUT: Discovery, Mars, Venus
  • TheBrett

    It’s about time they potentially sent some more probes to Venus. Venus is the true sister world to Earth, not like the small planet Mars. We need to have a floating probe in its atmosphere as well as orbiters, and we need to be trying to land something on its surface (that should be an easy one to sell in terms of tech spin-offs – highly temperature and pressure resistant machinery).

    . . . I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of life, either. Like you said, we don’t know if Venus ever had a good period where it had liquid water and hospitable temperatures that might have created conditions for life. That life is almost certainly absent on Venus’ surface today (although maybe not its interior), but then there’s the cloud deck of Venus, which is definitely a place where life might potentially be able to survive.

    Also, didn’t they find some evidence that Venus’ atmosphere is out of chemical equilibrium? Something is generating compounds that should be quickly destroyed.

    • kunling

      Surface temp of 800+ degrees somewhat nixes manned landers to Venus.

      • TheBrett

        Robot landers, not humans.

      • gaia girl

        No, we have this all wrong! The venusians have erected a giant screen
        around their planet, so we only see and detect what they want us to see.
        Depending upon the current political environment there, the ufos are
        sent to either probe us or report back on our socioeconomic progress.
        We need to learn about them asap. Due to our progressively greater
        intrusions into their 50 million mile airspace, they are finding us a
        larger and larger liability. The clean up alone has cost way more units
        than they are comfortable with and they have found us unresponsive to
        their requests for compensation. Many of them now have the impression
        that we are not children to be guided, but willful and perhaps even
        dangerous teenagers who are refusing to admit to their responsibilities!

        If we do not learn how to vote intergalactically, I have it on
        good authority they send us announcements on a regular basis, we may
        find ourselves removed from the equation permanently!

        • cv

          Gala Girl is correct. Their planet-cloaking technology allows them to cloak individuals, many of whom now are active in Earth government, especially at the UN. It’s too cold on Earth, hence they have instituted climate change and will take command of the Earth and all its resources when the proper temperature is reached. How do I know? I am one of them!

          • Master Cylinder

            I get it. I’m laughing. I have a great idea for a manned lander. Send Obama and Hillary. That should scare the Venusians into compliance with all earthly demands? Think?

          • OWilson

            One thing’s for sure.

            When Hillary lands she ‘ll be smiling, waving and pointing to at least one of the Vesuvians in the crowd :)

        • kunling

          You must have a more productive subject on which to waste key strokes.

          • cv

            We find your lack of faith disturbing! Even now we have agents in your primaries, preparing to take the presidency by the fool votes of your own electorate! I leave it to you to guess who….and there may be more than one! Far more!

        • Bob Juniper

          It is possible.

    • Kathleen Sisco

      This generaiton of gases from Venus may indicate that Venus’ interior has not been exuded like Earth’s was. If you look at Earth, first was carbon di, then oxygen, then the minerals like sulfur, calcium, used for life. I think that the birth of the Moon allowed Earth to have thin moveable lithosphere plates that no other planet has. It permitted the exudation of this chemical chain. I think Venus has not yet emitted her chemical production. It is sealed in due to the thick lithosphere. On these planets one volcano, like Olympus Mons suffices. Maat Mons on Venus.

      • disqusaurus_rex

        Don’t think that would have much to do with anything. Remember, Venus is also the result of smashing protoplanets, even if there are no extra survivors of that time period orbiting it now.

        Assuming Venus was fully formed when Theia hit the proto-Eerth that still only gives Venus a 50 million year headstart on an iron catastrophe and core solidification. That’s almost totally negligible given the scope of the age of the solar system.

        • Devin Porter

          This statement is highly speculative and I cannot condone any of its information as being accurate, scientists do not know how planets are formed and estimate that it’s via a dust cloud. There is no requirement for protoplanet collision

          • disqusaurus_rex

            Your personal condoning isn’t necessary. And yes, we very much DO know how planets form and have known this since the first images of protoplanetary disks in the Orion stellar nurseries were imaged.

            While we certainly can’t know what the pinball landscape of the early solar system was EXACTLY like (though we do know more than you allude to, through modelling, which tells us that Jupiter moved positions in the early solar system), we do know that the early system had protoplanets – which are the objects which the protoplanetary dust clouds produce.

      • Ricky CallmeKing Bias

        Very intelligent conversation. Very informative! I’m gonna read more comments.

  • Francis W. Porretto

    Given the high chemical reactivity of the Venerian atmosphere, there could be some sweet possibilities for terraforming it by “remote control.” Not that it would be cheap, of course; sending missiles heavily laden with reagents that far is more than a petty-cash project. But I can dream.

  • MMinCC

    Why do you call what has evolved on Venus and an “environmental disaster”?

    Why do you warmists want to lump the natural evolutional climate of a planet as an environmental disaster? Were untold numbers of rocks killed? Was it too many SUVs? Too many AlGore Mansions? Too many Venisians keeping their A/C at 68?

    Your constant attempts at semantic infiltration are pitiful.

    • coreyspowell

      I honestly cannot tell if you are being satirical.

      • ernldo


    • Rezeya Montecore

      Uh-oh, sounds like the doggie heard its whistle.

      • ernldo

        Who withheld your meds today? Mmin was correctly commenting on the fact goobers like you (grammar notsees not withstanding) seem to link EVERYTHING in the universe to some man made events affecting Earth weather. Veuns’ climate a disaster? Prove it!

        • Thecritic89

          First of all, I love when people complain when people point out their poor grammar. Attention to detail generally indicates a sharp mind (not necessarily, though). So, it is good to practice it.

          Secondly, to refer to it as a disaster is a human perspective or a life-sustaining perspective. It WOULD be a disaster for any life that had existed. This is one of the more flagrant attempts to create something out of nothing.

          I don’t understand the instant dismissal. It’s mind-blowing.

          • ernldo

            Maybe your comprehension skills are lacking. You actually read something NOT there? Nothing was dismissed, I just wasn’t emotional, eh?

          • Rezeya Montecore

            You’ve just got the one rhetorical maneuver, and I see you’re going to keep using it until you get your way.

          • coreyspowell

            I welcome healthy debate here, but the rules of this site are that the conversation must remain civil.

        • Rezeya Montecore

          So I guess you’re fine with the racism, too, or you would’ve mentioned it. *yawn*

          UPDATE: “We did that to negros and that hasn’t worked out too well. They stuck to themselves and turned once great American cities into third world hellholes. Best to send them packing….negros as well!” — ernldo, comment history

          Ah. That would indeed explain why you’re fine with the other guy’s racism. Birds of a feather. Now, bugger off, there’s a good boy.

          • ernldo

            Racism? Truth sticks in your throat? Prove the statement in error. We had the same experience with indians, no? Have your nap, your brain cell needs the rest….

      • Emkay

        verisimilitude..of course..

      • MMinCC

        Unlike many of you REgressives, I make no attempt to mask my beliefs by hiding my past comments.

        None of which BTW are racist. But thanks for more hate like a typical REgressive. In your next reply, be sure and mention my obvious Nazi tendencies.

        Calling the natural climate evolution on Venus a disaster shows how easily you march in lockstep to your OverLords’s demands.

    • GivesIt Thought

      Seek help for your aggressive tendencies.

      • MMinCC

        Thanks Doctor Snowflake

    • wangweilin

      It’s getting tiresome to see the environmental/climate theme occurring in so many unrelated articles.

      • coreyspowell

        This is an article about life and habitability. Climate is the defining measure of habitability, and any change in climate that would preclude life would be a disaster for any life that had begun. I made no connection–zero–to any events or policies on this planet. The only one who is introducing that obsession is…you.

        • wangweilin

          “Environmental catastrophe” is strictly an Earthbound perspective, no connection? In view of the planets explored by probes and telescopes harsh life bare environments seem to be the norm not catastrophes.

          • coreyspowell

            You are casting about desperately to find a political agenda where there is none.

    • cv

      You do have a point that too many of us look at situations through the lens of our own inclinations and conceits.

      • OWilson

        “Saving the planet” from climate change comes to mind :)

        • cv

          While a noble goal, and worthy of study, the law of entropy has a lot to say about whether engineering the thermodynamics of our planet’s atmosphere is possible. The short answer? No. Unfortunately it hasn’t occurred to climate scientists at large that if you can’t, in principle or practice, reverse an ideal gas process in a flask, you most assuredly can’t do it in a planetary atmosphere! I suggest getting a complete engineering solution before popping off and spending tens of trillions on a failed attempt. We’ll need that money to move away from the coast, unless saved by nonlinear feedback mechanisms!

    • Master Cylinder

      I agree with you. Venus is not a “disaster”, it just is “another”. Why can’t we keep the nastiness out of the dialogue?

    • Devin Porter

      A disaster is quantified by the destruction of normal systems only, no loss of life is required.

      Venus would be habitable but an ecological issue has prevented that, I.e a disaster

      • MMinCC

        Again, who are you to say that the natural evolution of the climate on Venus is a disaster. Do you know for a fact that there no life at all. Maybe deep in the planet’s depth, or something resilient to the temperature extremes.

        Even if there is no life of any kind, it is not a disaster. Your mind is so wrapped up in the climate change garbage that that is the lens you’re mistakenly viewing the universe through.

  • Uncle Al

    Understanding why” “It has no appreciable magnetic field to protect it from charged particles that blow out from the sun” With twice the insolation, Venus high atmosphere has twice the solar vacuum UV to ionize water. With no magnetic field, that high atmosphere is stripped off by solar wind. Venus’ very large deuterium/hydrogen ratio measures this stripping of a wet world to a dry world. Carbon and sulfur oxides from vulcanism, then positive feedback for thermal trapping.
    Table 1, D/H (×10^6)
    149 ± 3 Earth bulk
    16,000 ± 200 Venus atmosphere
    780 ± 80 Mars atmosphere
    “Venus lost at least 99.9% of the water it started out with”

    Terraforming Venus absent water is futility. Crash a large wet comet or three, wait a few millennia for things to equilibrate, then add autotrophic photosynthesis. Mars admits to that solution, though there isn’t much sunlight to support photosynthesis.

    • coreyspowell

      Good points, all, but they do not address the deeper questions. Why was Venus’s accretion history so much different than Earth’s? When and how did its climate heat up? What kind of volcanism and other geologic activity are occurring today? How do those geologic processes influence the atmosphere? Are there any limited forms of tectonics? Does slow rotation automatically eliminate the possibility of a substantial magnetic field?

      I could keep going, but you get the idea. We have a solid big-picture snapshot of Venus, but are woefully missing the details.

      • Uncle Al

        Same accretion history. Climate divergence is quantitatively explained above. Cytherean tectonics is internal radioactive decay heating absent most surface venting, then catastrophic planetary-scale resurfacing. Global meteor craters have a sharp old age cut off. Atmospheric composition less water and with carbon and sulfur oxides is explained above. A self-exciting dynamo requires planetary rotation.

        We are rich with details in 25-year old literature. Venus is fundamentally boring except for 1) volatile element harvesting (tellurium, bismuth, lead on mountain tops by chemical transport, plus shipping and handling), 2) periodic turnover of planetary crust all at once to vent accumulated internal heat.
        and doi:10.1126/science.271.5245.28

        Ceramics (rocks) are plasticized by trace water content, promoting plastic deformation. Look at cultured quartz’ vibrational Q-values versus ppm water content. (minimum electronic C-grade through AA-grade). Venus is extraordinarily dry. Its crust is extraordinarily rigid. Its tectonics are long term boring punctuated by horrifying. Spend NASA money somewhere productive. Visit asteroid 16 Psyche whose extraordinary density suggests a protoplanet’s stripped metal core. We have no idea what light elements dope Earth’s core, a Mar’s-sized limp of iron, nickel, and presumably primordial siderophilic heavy metals.

        If 16 Psyche is indeed a large differentiated protoplanet’s core, it is dripping with noble metals. That is worth harvesting.

        • rms

          I’ve been under the impression that the “periodic turnover of planetary crust all at once” theory was disproven?

          • Emkay

            Never question Uncle Al.. he will cause the Bird of Paradise to crap on your head…

  • Michael Allan Brenchley

    Maybe focusing on own planet would be a better start

    • coreyspowell

      Early studies of Venus were hugely influential in developing better climate models and an improved understanding of greenhouse warming. These are not either-or choices.

      • wangweilin

        Venus’ surface temps are largely due to adiabatic mechanisms. Solar inputs are minor in comparison due to high albedo.

    • ernldo

      We can, and should do BOTH. Why is it we always have just enough to do one or the other?

  • David Kaplan

    Good story. There’s an under explored learning lab close to home.

  • OWilson

    Perception versus reality.
    I once asked my U.K. GEC grammar school science class to name the nearest planet to earth, and the farthest planet from the sun.
    Nobody got the correct answers, Mars, they said was closest.
    Pluto (then a planet) they said, was the farthest. (This was a trick question, because as any astronomer knew at the time, Pluto in its elongated orbit was inside the orbit of Neptune :)

    • okiejoe

      As any astronomer knows Mars is the closest planet to the Earth sometimes. It has an “elongated” orbit too, just enough to be closest now and then.

    • cv

      As you state it actually is relative to the various positions at various times. There are times when Mercury is closer to Earth than Venus.

      • OWilson

        We generally refer to the positions of planets in order of their average orbital distance from the sun.

        While the actual distances between planets change from season to season, year to year.

        You have to give a lot of credit to the early astronomers who tried to figure out what was actually going on up there.

  • ernldo

    The absence of a moon probably is the number one reason Venus never evolved into an Earth like planet. Ours is drifting away ever so slowly, without it Earth will be vastly altered. Talk about climate change. I’ll miss our moon when it goes Clementine….

  • Theo Aivazian

    what we really need to know is, did venus have a magnetic field, so a probe with have to touch down on venus and have another probe to explode as far in the surface as possible. so we would be able to tell if it had a liquid core, if it did or does then we could figure out a way in the future to speed up its rotation to restore the magnetic field.

  • gaia girl

    No, we have this all wrong! The venusians have erected a giant screen around their planet, so we only see and detect what they want us to see. Depending upon the current political environment there, the ufos are sent to either probe us or report back on our socioeconomic progress. We need to learn about them asap. Due to our progressively greater intrusions into their 50 million mile airspace, they are finding us a larger and larger liability. The clean up alone has cost way more units than they are comfortable with and they have found us unresponsive to their requests for compensation. Many of them now have the impression that we are not children to be guided, but willful and perhaps even dangerous teenagers who are refusing to admit to their responsibilities!
    If we do not learn how to vote intergalactically, I have it on good authority they send us announcements on a regular basis, we may find ourselves removed from the equation permanently!

    • Edgar Norris Jaynes Jr

      Aside from these interesting forays into another dimension, if Venus has similar gravity to that of Earth, why would atmospheric pressure be higher? That predicates a deeper atmosphere, on a planet closer to the sun and rotating very slowly. Mars has very little atmosphere and is lighter than earth. Where does this effect come from?

    • Edgar

      Getting back to basic science, Venus and Mars are both smaller than the earth, and have less gravity, yet the atmosphere of Venus (closer to the sun) has a higher pressure at the planet’s surface. This would seem to suggest that the atmosphere is either vertically thicker, or much denser. Mars, farther from the sun, has very little atmosphere. What drives these differences

  • Alan

    I read that Mars supposedly lost its atmosphere to solar wind because it has a very weak magnetic field, probably from cooling. If so, why would Venus have such a massive atmosphere? Is it because volcanos are pumping out more gasses than the solar wind can blow off?

    • coreyspowell

      It’s a fascinating question, one that deserves more investigation. There are a lot of differences between the two worlds. Venus is about 10 times as massive as Mars, receives 4 times as much solar heating, rotates 200 times more slowly, probably formed with a different mix of water and other volatiles. All of these factors surely had an influence, but there’s still a great deal we don’t know. That’s the big motivation for going back to find out more.

  • Hanshi

    What if a large comet or small icy moon were diverted into Venus? It might make a WORLD of difference.

    • Emkay

      yes, and then Venus’ orbit may change enough to cause it to smash into Earth at some later date.. puts a whole new spin on ‘rock your world’ doesn’t it!

  • StanChaz

    I respectfully disagree. If you look very closely at the above Russian Venusian surface photograph, you will clearly see several half-eaten Twinkies, scattered about the surface (in the lower left especially). This certainly argues very strongly for the NON-existence of any form of Venusian intelligent life, despite what you postulate. Indeed, it is very likely that we are all originally hale from dumb Venusians — those who managed to escape from their doomed planet (especially those denizens of hothouse Florida). Tell me: why else would some of us ALSO consume Twinkies? Think about it, do Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio look and talk and respond like genuine earthlings to you? They have come “to serve mankind”they say. SURE , we know what THAT means! Twinkie filling! You have been warned.

  • Bob Rowland

    The exam of venus has limited value, spend the money on bigger, better builds of telescopes to find earth like planets that we can visit as the tech for intersteller starships develope. Then in my next life I will volunter to serve as a crew member.

    • coreyspowell

      Ideally we’d do both. It would cost $500 million-$1 billion to mount a substantial Venus mission. It would cost closer to $10 billion, probably, to build the kind of space telescope needed to examine the chemistry of other Earthlike planets. Before we build an Earth-finder, we want to make sure we know enough to interpret the data correctly.

      • Emkay

        “we want to make sure we know enough to interpret the data correctly”… quite true, and your quote applies to all things ‘ far..

  • Ed Christopher

    Glad to see NASA may be going to Venus.

    This article, however, is horrible and a good example of what’s wrong with scientific journalism. Since the current THEORY for the origin of the solar system doesn’t fit the ACTUAL conditions on the planet Venus, there must be something wrong with Venus? Ridiculous! If the facts don’t support the theory we change the theory, not inject value judgements about the facts.

    There are alternative theories for the formation of the solar system that actually predicted the conditions on Venus, as well as the other planets in our solar system. Google “Immanuel Velikovsky” if you haven’t heard of him and read what he predicted we would find on Venus back in 1950.

    Is Velikovsky right? I don’t know. But it’s truly sad that the current theory is treated as “fact” when it obviously doesn’t fit reality, and alternative theories are ignored.

    There is nothing wrong with Venus and we can (possibly) learn a lot if we study the planet with open minds instead of trying to force the facts to fit a political agenda.

    • OWilson

      I agree.

      Recent discoveries show “impossible” planetary sizes, speeds and orbits around other stars, given current theories of star/planet formation. (see latest news – exoplanets).

      AGWers have at various times pointed to Venus, and even Mars, as our future, if we don’t vote for the right politicians. :)

      • coreyspowell

        What you are describing is the most exciting part of the scientific process: Finding new information that does not fit existing theories, and having to develop new ideas to make sense of it.

        The discovery of hot Jupiters and other types of unexpected planets forced astronomers to ditch some of their naive assumptions and take a new, more realistic look at how planets form. In fact, some leading theorists had predicted planetary migration years before the detection of real-world examples. Most astronomers did not originally trust the theory because it didn’t fit their expectations, but it turned out that the theorists were actually ahead of the observers in this case,

        That said, there is still a lot of learning going on in exoplanet research–which is exactly what makes the field so much fun to watch.

    • coreyspowell

      Did you actually read the article? It is about all the things we don’t know about Venus, and the need to get more information so we can begin to understand it; you seem to have read an article with the opposite point of view.

      And there is no need to ask whether Velikovsky is correct, since his ideas have been falsified over and over by the data. As you say, if the facts don’t support the theory, we change the theory.

  • Lila Sovietskaya

    1. The world is making progress in becoming more like Venus. We need to improve the greenhouse effect by adding more heat blocking in the upper atmosphere. Once the oceans boil and evaporate, the planet Earth will become more habitable for Venusians

    2. Extremely difficult to send probes or manned expeditions to Venus. Major obstacle is heat transfer to keep inside the probe at much lower temperature. The pressure issue was solved by deep sea submersibles. Studying Venus is important for us to understand our own climate and how it is changing

  • jwillis84

    I still wonder if a solar wind collector could seed the upper atmosphere with hydrogen ions. It would be an interesting experiment. Exothermic of course.. maybe that would ablate or burn off part of the atmosphere and lower its pressure.. while also causing droplets to form in the upper atmosphere. The churn would also increase water vapour up there an that might reflect even more sunlight.. cooling the lower layers. If it ever reached the level of cloud it might start dragging carbon and sulphur down to the surface.. and if there were enough condensation.. sequester it in lakes or small oceans much like on Earth. The real trick of course would be kickstarting or reversing orbital rotation.. but either way speeding it up could be achieved with multiple passes of near orbit asteroids providing a reverse sling shot effect. Ferrous rings perhaps from shattering meteorites at the Roche limit could begin generating a planetary system magnetic field. And the shadows a more temperate climate zone on the surface. It would be a different world.. but it might be habitable after a fashion.

  • Apolzan Marius

    well,it seems that more and more the ppl make the same dam mistake,what life means for humans ? something that is like on Earth ? why has to be like it ? even on Earth they found life in places where they said at first that is impossible and yet,they still search out there in universe same things that r on Earth,that is to be a really really really extremely short minded,the concept of life is defind by ourselfs and what suround us on Earth,not in universe,looking for aliens that look like us,looking for aliens that would talk like us thru radio,it’s extremely stupid,why r they lloking for planets same as Earth with same things ? pfff,when in their stuppid minds will get the diversity that can be in univers and the way that an alien culture could be more advance than us (which for sure they will never going to say hi thru radio or not at all) or less advance than us (probably talking thru smoke signals,case that we won’t bother them) and maybe so advanced that they don’t need to comunicate as we do coz they do it thelepatic,so humans will never pick up anything no matter what,so the total,humans r more stupid than they look

  • Draza Mitrovich

    what if you landed on the dark side and had a mobile base that moved fast enough to keep you on the cool dark side?

  • Robert Lindsey II

    If I remember right, the Soviet lander only lasted a very few minutes before Venus fried and crushed it. I can see where it would be very difficult to design a cost effecient lander that could withstand that hostile environment. We could probably use our own hot spots such as vents to active volcanos and our own deep sea areas for the caustic heat and pressure tests to help in the development.

  • Stephen Watson

    If Venus and Uranus mated it would be earth. Seriously the best place to find extra terrestrial extra solar world life In the goldilox zone on earth sized moons of Jupiter sized extra solar worlds. Reason 90 percent of the stars are smaller than earths sun. close to a star the planet tends to have one side facing its sun like mercury and venus. If in orbit around a big planet then that problem doesnt exist. It gets starlight even if one face is in lock toward the jupiter sized planet it rotates around. In that case one day and night is one complete orbit around the big planet in the goldilox zone. That being said humans are to stupid to colonize space. Humans believe in terrestrial tribal warfare, polluting the environment like a bunch of pigs or filthy monkeys, and 1% of the human population owns much of the world’s wealth.

  • Noorjahan

    I dont think venus is like’not practical

  • disqusaurus_rex

    Venus is not in the Sun’s habitable zone; it may once have been but isn’t now. With the irradiance it gets combined with lack of plate tectonics, Venus behaves radically different than Earth.

  • atl9pdnp

    I am just not convinced that looking for earth like planets 10’s and hundreds of light years from earth is worth the cost or the intelliectual pursuit. Unless we can figure a way to travel there its a waste of time. We can’t even figure out right now if we can successfully send a man to Mars – let alone outside the solar system. And we know more about Mars than we know about our ocean bottoms on earth. It just appears to me that we are picking the lowest fruit on teh trees so NASA can get some funding. If we are REALLY serious about space exploration we would have had a colony on the moon by now – it was almost a half century – that is half CENTURY – ago that we landed a man on the moon – and we have done nothing of any note since then – just earth orbit crap. Venus is very interesting – but they have the challenge of the clouds etc so they can’t see it with a telescope, so they forget about it – and make up theories what lies beneath the surfuce without any second thoughts… all just a waste of time and dollars. Better spend the money on producing star wars films as that is about as close to colonizing space that humanity will get.

  • Devin Porter

    curiously, since nuclear detonations would cause a nuclear winter, if the same effect could be deployed on Venus we could worry about radiation alone which is already a threat anyway due to the lack of ozone and magnetosphere.. Just a thought

  • Cy Floriana Jr.

    I am sure this will lead to some uncalled for hate and vitrol to be spewed my direction. Even still, I would like to point out a few things, but then ask a question for us to ponder without the need for name calling and intelligence shaming (is that a thing or did I make it up lol).
    Everything in science is theory and speculation. Nothing can be proven as truth and fact. Honestly, science should be viewed through the same lens as myth and religion. Just because you or I believe something does not mean that it is universal truth and fact. There is a number of reasons I feel this way.
    There are no eyewitnesses to creation (unless you bring God into the equation). So nobody seen what happened or how it happened or when it happened etc. So when people say they or we know something, they are actually going off of what is being repeated to them from someone else. The problem with this is simple: humans have agendas and those agendas cause bias. Sorry, but that statement may be the only pure fact in existence. Each of us, whether or not we even realize it, allow our preconceived notions and personal biases to influence how we perceive data. We cannot, no matter what line is repeated and sold as fact, know what transpired at the time of the creation of our solar system.
    But even if we toss that aside we are confronted with things when we try to conduct trials in order to prove a theory as correct. No matter how we try, or how we try to convince ourselves and others, the conditions in place at the true point in time and space at the creation cannot possibly be known and recreated in a lab. There will always, and I mean always, be something or many things off with the environmental and physical conditions of said trial. For instance, not same place or time as original occurrence will lead to a different conclusion even. Even the trial taking place in a controlled environment instead of a wild, untamed environment can lead to a different result for crying out loud.
    And even though I could go on forever I will just also point out the fact that even observational methods are flawed. Nobody is alive long enough to witness any true experimental method from start to finish. If it took a million years for something to form from start to finish, then we cannot count on a trial that lasted weeks or months after being sped up. The speeding up itself does not allow for a true result. Even computer simulations are flawed because they are programmed by humans who presume to know the exact environmental and physical conditions that existed billions of years ago.
    I am only saying these things as far as the creation hows and whys and whens etc. There are things we can know about the universe as far as to the right nows, not past or future even. Too many factors can occur which means anything other than the present is speculation and theory.
    So I will end with this question I have, since we know that right now Venus has no moon. Could it be possible to share a moon? Is there any observable place in the galaxy where two planets have shared a moon? I only ask this from the perspective of the twin planet theory. Perhaps given the twin theory is true, our orbits were at one time closer to each other and maybe close enough that we shared our moon. Even perhaps, something may have caused Venus to drift a little towards the Sun and far enough from the moon that it created the planet and conditions we see out there today. I propose this as theory and speculation of course. But looking at myth and religion even, I can think of a few similarities such as Jacob and Esau. Esau actually born first, was robbed of his rightful inheritence by Jacob and their mother. Jacob even means in Hebrew “he grasps the heel” but also means “deceiver”. Perhaps Venus being Esau and Earth being Jacob, along with the moon being the mother as it helped Earth while taking from Venus, it would make sense. Again, just throwing it out there.

  • Gina Hill

    with the twin planet is it going to be for the next genration .Has this planet is on a tilt.or is it where you have a second life and go onto that planet


Out There

Notes from the far edge of space, astronomy, and physics.

About Corey S. Powell

Corey S. Powell is DISCOVER's Editor at Large and former Editor in Chief. Previously he has sat on the board of editors of Scientific American, taught science journalism at NYU, and been fired from NASA. Corey is the author of "20 Ways the World Could End," one of the first doomsday manuals, and "God in the Equation," an examination of the spiritual impulse in modern cosmology. He lives in Brooklyn, under nearly starless skies.


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