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Climate and Environment

It's Our Venus, It's Our Fire, It's Scientists' Desire

An image of a beige planet with striations against a black background
An image of Venus, taken on June 8, 2020, taken from NASA's Mariner 10 spacecraft.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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We’ve walked on the moon, studied Mars and mapped the planets. Now, another planet in our solar system will receive some much deserved attention. Drumroll, please... it's Venus.

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What We Hope To Learn From Two Planned Missions To Venus

Called the Morning Star, the Evening Star and, occasionally, Earth's evil twin, Venus is only one step closer to the sun than our own planet.

Last week, NASA sent astronomers and space lovers into a frenzy when the agency announced it will launch two new spacecraft missions to study the planet. Plenty of challenges lay ahead, so don't plan on heading to Venus any time soon.

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"Venus has a very very thick atmosphere pressure on the surfaces, like the pressure 3,000 feet under the surface of the ocean on Earth so it’s more like a submarine environment than what we think of as an atmosphere. But wait! Don’t order yet! Venus has a runaway greenhouse that has lifted its surface temperature is about 900°F, hot enough to melt lead. But wait! Venus has a sulfuric acid cloud," says Bruce Betts, the Chief Scientist for The Planetary Society, the world’s largest space interest group.

Eons ago, the second planet from the sun experienced its own global warming. Scientists hope studying Venus can help us understand the impact of unchecked climate change.

"[Venus] is an extreme case because it completely lost the oceans and then it lost the main way the carbon dioxide is sequestered," Betts says. "Infrared heat has trouble getting out, so you raise these temperatures and get very, very hot. So that same type of thing we’re seeing on Earth in more subtle but nonetheless serious factors that come with climate change."

If there’s life, or evidence of extinct life, on Venus's now-inhospitable surface, the planet might have something to tell us about Earth's evolution. But we won’t know for sure until we get there.

NASA plans to explore our sweltering next-door neighbor in a series of dual missions scheduled to launch between 2028 and 2030.

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Reporting from planet earth, this is LAist.