Venus: Scientific Model Shows Planet May Have Been Able To Support Life

The quest for finding life in the universe may have been discovered in our backyard. CNN is reporting on a study published in Geophysical Research Letters in which NASA has shown a planetary model of Venus that would have allowed the planet to support life 3 billion years ago.

As we currently know it, Venus is a planet that is most certainly unable to support life. Compared with Earth, the atmosphere on Venus is 90 times denser than that of Earth, and it sees high temperatures approach 900 degrees. The only similarity between Earth and Venus is that they are remarkable close together in size. NASA’s new research study may soon add similarities between Earth and Venus.

Using computer simulations that are used to track and predict climate change on Earth, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies turned back the clock on Venus to 3 billion years ago. The goal was to determine if Venus ever saw a period of time where the environment was similar to what would be needed for life to develop. The computer models shocked scientists when it was realized that Venus would have been able to develop, and sustain, life for 2 billion years.

As the computer simulation of Venus was running, scientists learned that Venus has areas where oceans would have existed. Along with the oceans, large clouds would have filled the atmosphere which would have acted as shields, allowing temperatures on the surface to be similar to those on Earth. Due to the fact that Venus is closer to the sun than Earth is, these clouds would have been needed in the atmosphere to ensure that the strong solar rays would not have a direct line to the ground.

Michael Way was the lead author of the NASA study. Even though the computer model is still a “guess” as to what life on Venus was like 3 billion years ago, Way says “it’s the least wrong choice you can make.” Way expressed that there were many variables that NASA had to manipulate in order to get the result that showed favorability to life. These variables included rotation speed, atmosphere, and topography.

“Water does not equal life. What we believe is that water is conducive to life. Venus is a much tougher place for life to get started. It was only warm and wet very early in its history. It’s been a mostly dead planet for the last 4 billion years. But the modeling we did was to say that Venus might be a better place to look for the beginnings of life.”

One of the keys that has been leading researchers to believe that Venus could have supported life is the fact that Venus is similar in structure to Earth. In order to better determine the similarities between Earth and Venus, NASA will need to investigate the planet by launching more fact-finding missions to the second planet from the sun. Future missions will be able to determine how much liquid water, if any, exists or existed on Venus.

NASA is finding more and more places in our own solar system that have shown that they either have water in some form or had water at some point in the past. Water seems to be the key in where NASA wants to spend their time looking for life. Way commented further on NASA’s future plans to investigate places where water may be.

“When the time comes in the future, when we can get more data on exoplanets and their atmospheres, we can help better target which planets we want to look at through these models. If we think these planets can have liquid water, that’s where we want to go.”

Do you think that Venus once had life on it?

[Image Via Shutterstock/Vadim Sadovski]