Space & Innovation

There Could Have Been Life On Venus

Scientists believe Venus was once Earth-like. How is this possible and what caused the planet to turn toxic?

Fans of old Looney Tunes will recall that Marvin the Martian had a particular fondness for the planet Venus. He may have been on to something. Newly developed computer models suggest that the planet was once a balmy paradise.

As Trace Dominguez explains in today's DNews special report, a group of scientists recently published a very interesting report in the journal Geophysical Research Records. It appears that the researchers hijacked one of the supercomputer systems used to investigate climate change here on Earth -- and fed in a new set of input data.

The researchers wanted to know what life on Venus would be like if and when it had oceans on the surface. We can't know for sure, but many astrobiologists contend that Venus once had water, and probably had life. After all, the planet has an orbit that's very similar to ours, and it sits just inside the inner edge of solar system's habitable zone.

RELATED: Japanese Probe Ready to Get Intimate With Venus

It's clear that Venus is not capable of supporting life now -- at least, not life as we know it. Something catastrophic happened to Venus' atmosphere in the last few hundred million years and atmospheric pressure there is about 90 times greater than on Earth. It's also a twinge on the hot side. Average temperature is upwards of 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, a few billion years ago our sun wasn't as hot as it is now, so it's entirely possible that liquid water could have existed on Venus. What's more, according to the computer simulations, that water would have had the effect of regulating atmospheric temperatures by creating a kind of planetary parasol of clouds.

In fact, even if Venus had only 10 percent of the water volume of Earth's oceans, the planet could have conceivably maintained an Earth-like environment for billions of years. And when you combine habitable temperatures with liquid water and billions of years, you get the possibility of the evolution of life.

Alas, we may never know for sure. Venus is a tricky place to study up close, what with those temperatures and that atmospheric pressure. The Soviets actually managed to drop a few landers on Venus in the 1970s, but they burned up within a couple of hours.

Double Secret Bonus Ordnance Trivia: When Earth obstructed his view of Venus, Marvin the Martian attempted to blow us all up with an illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

Universe Today: Earth's Twin

Space: Was Venus Alive? 'The Signs Are Probably There'

Scientific American: Hellish Venus Might Have Been Habitable For Billions Of Years