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Evidence of Lightning on Venus

April 27th, 2008 by kdoughe5 · No Comments

Have you ever wondered how much other planets in our solar system are like Earth? Venus is especially much like Earth because they have similar characteristics such as chemical make-up, mass, distance from the sun, and size. Many Scientists have theorized that Venus and Earth started out the same and over time, have changed into the state they are in now. European Scientist have more evidence to prove that theory with the recent mission to Venus. Evidence of even more similar characteristics such as strong atmospheric winds, lightning storms, and cloud vortexes over it’s polar regions according to the article “Venus Craft Reveals Lightning, Supports Watery Past” by James Owen from the National Geographic (November 2007).

Venus has an average atmospheric temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 times the amount of pressure Earth has, therefore it seem plausible that Venus once had just as much water as Earth and over time, it evaporated away. On the spacecraft taken to Venus had a plasma analyzer that detects ions leaving Venus’ atmosphere. The three main ions detected were helium, oxygen, and hydrogen which is very suspicious of evaporated water. When water molecules split, not only is hydrogen and oxygen released, but traces of deuterium are a byproduct of the reaction. Therefore the amount of deuterium found is associated with the amount of water evaporated. During with mission, they found high levels of deuterium further more proving that water was being evaporated into Venus’ atmosphere.

Throughout the mission, they have also found large cloud vortexes over the polar regions that have much higher temperatures than the area around it. From this finding they suspect that like Earth, Venus has circulating warm air traveling from the equatorial region to the polar regions. I think this is very fascinating to find this similar trend in the planets closest to Earth.

For the first time, scientists have evidence of lightning on Venus found from this mission. Many scientists were caught off guard in seeing it. Scientists believed that it wasn’t possible to have lightning on Venus due to the smog-type of cloud found there. Since smog-type clouds generally don’t produce elecrical charges, they assumed it wasn’t possible. They now wonder if they have thought of all the reasons electricity could be generated by the atmosphere.

I was very surprised to see that scientists have found lightning on other planets. Not only that but to also realize how much Venus and Earth really are alike. Advances in technology have made it possible to prove not only our theories about Venus but create new ones. I can only wonder how much more we will find out about how similar Venus and other planets are to our own.

Kathryn Dougherty

Tags: MTR3440 · planetary atmospheres

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